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Christian Anarchy 



Jesus' Primacy Over the Powers 



by Vernard Eller 



Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 

Grand Rapids, Michigan 

1987 



This work may be freely reproduced and distributed provided that no changes are made, no 

revenues are collected beyond the nominal cost of media, and credit is given to the author, Wm. B. 

Eerdmans Publishing Co., and House Church Central. Any other use requires the written permission 

of the author. Citing this material on other Internet sites is encouraged. Please include a hypertext 

attribution to http://www.hccentral.com/ellerl2/ . 



In appreciation of 

JACQUES ELLUL 

who has led me not only into Christian Anarchy 

but into much more of God's truth as well. 

Merci, mon ami! 



Table of Contents 



Preface 
Before we start 

I. Christian Anarchy -The Very Idea! 

I I . In This Corner A rky Faith 

III. Churchly Arkydom It's Unreal! 

IV. On Selective Sin and Righteousness 

V. Karl Barth A Theology of Christian Anarchy 

VI . Dietrich Bonhoeffer Almost Persuaded 

VII. Anarchic Theology and Arky Politics 

VIII. Christian Anarchy and Civil Disobedience 

IX. The Modus Operandi of History 

X. On Ways More than One of Skinning Cats 

XI. Justice, Freedom, and Grace The Fruits of Anarchy 



Preface 



I hope you find this book "important." But whether you do or not, it is very important to me. 
More than thirty years into my writing career, I finally have my answer to the question 
"Who am I?" From the outset, of course, I have been aware that my thought has been 
formed by the Anabaptist/Brethren tradition of my own church background-and that, it 
must be said, much more by its classic, historical manifestation than by any contemporary 
version. I knew then, too, who were the modern thinkers leading me further and further 
along this line of development. My doctoral dissertation had me exploring the convergence 
between the thought of Kierkegaard and that of early Brethrenism. Later, I discovered the 
Blumhardts and published a volume of excerpts from their work. I quickly caught on that 
Jacques Ellul was of this company and consequently have done studies of and had 
correspondence with him. More recently, I have had a growing appreciation of Karl Barth as 
being another representative of the school. My problem has never been that of floundering 
around. I have always known where I was-even if not quite sure who. 

I even got this tradition identified (and I think accurately enough) as "Radical Christian 
Discipleship." However, although it worked for a time, that label didn't begin to explain the 
full distinction between this and other Christian traditions. And I regularly found myself at 
odds with other individuals and groups also claiming to represent Radical Christian 
Discipleship. This tradition, clearly, had made me a "pacifist"; yet I was entirely unhappy 
with the "pacifism" of contemporary Brethrenism. Why, I asked myself, did I always wind up 
on the wrong side of each of the Christian Left's enthusiasms-peace, justice, equality, 
liberation, feminism? After all, I was supposed to be part of that gang, not an outsider. Yet 
no matter what was said or implied about me, I knew I was not a "conservative" over 
against their "liberalism." I was every bit as unhappy with the positions of conservatism as 
with those of liberalism. So, being neither a radical, a liberal, nor a conservative, what under 
the sun was I? What other option could there be? 

The chapters here following will recount my discovery of the rather easily identifiable but 
almost entirely subconscious and submerged tradition of "Christian Anarchy." And with that 
tradition I had found my home and am at peace. All of my battles of the past thirty years 
now fall into place and make sense. Now I can see a consistency throughout; I knew what I 
was doing but didn't have name for it. 

I really do believe the key was in coming up with the requisite terminology: "anarchy," with 
the derivatives "arky" and "arky faith." All along, of course, Scripture itself provided the 
terms that should have led us to this understanding but had not. Its talk of "the powers" 
would have done it-except that we automatically identified those only as the evil powers 
we were eager to combat and not at all including the good powers we embraced. Likewise, 
both with Jesus' "being not of the world" and Paul's "not being conformed to the world," we 
read them as counsels to separate ourselves only from the world's bad powers and certainly 
not from its good ones. Consequently, lacking an explicit terminology, even the greatest 
Christian anarchists-from Jesus on down-have not had themselves or their condition 
identified in a way that would make possible explicit consideration, analysis, and debate. 



Yet the material is there. In fact, even before I made my discovery of Christian Anarchy, 
several of the chapters of this book had been written as independent pieces. I now found 
that all I had to do was a bit of recasting into arky terminology in order to make them fit- 
and not only fit but also come alive with a clarity and relevance they had not had before. 
Indeed, I could now read any number of my earlier efforts and say, "Of course! If I had only 
had the concept 'anarchy,' I would have known what I was talking about." Actually, at one 
point I was right on the verge. In my book The Promise (New York: Doubleday, 1970), there 
was an untimely born, now-l-see-what-this-book-is-all-about chapter entitled "The Grand 
Irrelevancy of the Gospel," in which I spoke particularly of the grand irrelevancy of Jesus. 
That chapter can now be seen to be pure Christian Anarchy. But I didn't have the word for it 
and so had to wait another fifteen years to get the answer to "Who am I?" Sorry about that. 
Nevertheless, whether you find this book important or not, it is a most important one to 
me. 

When it comes to acknowledging those who have aided in the creation of this book, I am in 
an impossible situation. In bits and pieces, the manuscript has circulated ever so widely. 
Some of the ideas and materials have been used in public presentation and discussion. I 
can't begin to recall who all contributed what helpful suggestions and criticisms. Therefore, I 
have decided here to list by name only those recognized scholars who have done the 
equivalent professional critique from their field of expertise. Most of these get mentioned 
within the book itself. And it must be emphasized that the appearance of a name here does 
not necessarily connote that person's approval of the book's thesis; in a couple of cases that 
is definitely not so. 

But I here want to recognize my debt and express my gratitude to the following 
distinguished professors (all in the fields of theology and the Bible except Jacques Ellul, who 
is distinguished in any number of fields, and James Stayer, who is a historian): Bernard 
Ramm (American Baptist Seminary of the West, Berkeley); Jacques Ellul (retired in 
Bordeaux, France); George Hunsinger (Bangor Theological Seminary); Warren Groff 
(Bethany Theological Seminary, Oak Brook, Illinois); Markus Barth (University of Basel, 
Switzerland); Martin Rumscheidt (Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, Nova Scotia); James 
Stayer (Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario); Howard Clark Kee (Boston University). 

The best I can do for all the other people who feel they have contributed to the book is this: 
I hereby want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the other people who feel they have 
contributed to the book. 

I do also want to give special thanks to the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company--in 
particular to Publisher Eerdmans and editors Gary Lee and Sandy Zeles. My relationship 
there has always been much more personal and precious than simply a business one. 

As ever, I am deeply obligated to the members of my own family-some of whom made a 
direct contribution to this particular book; all of whom hold me up and keep me going 
through the labor of book-birthing. 



Finally, regarding the typing and manuscript preparation, I gratitude for my faithful TRS-80 
Model I computer and its Allwrite word-processing program. It gets the job done right-and 
cheap. 

VERNARD ELLER 
La Verne, California 
New Year, 1986 



Before We Start 

Enough of the manuscript already has been around enough that I can know for a surety 
what the major criticism of this book will be. It makes sense, then, for me to enter my 
rejoinder here-even before we start. This way, the readers can immediately be cognizant of 
the issue and thus prepared to weigh its pros and cons in the very process reading. 

It already has been and will continue to be said that the position presented here has me 
essentially "apolitical"-and thus quietistic, unconcerned about the state of the world, 
irresponsible, and altogether deplorable. 

For one thing, I would respond that the book is not exactly an arguing of "my position." 
Before it is that it is an effort to discover: (1) the position of Scripture (particularly Jesus and 
Paul); (2) in a major way, the positions of Jacques Ell ul and Karl Barth; (3) in a lesser way, 
those of S0ren Kierkegaard, J. C. and Christoph Blumhardt, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and (4) 
in a still lesser way, of several contemporary New Testament scholars. 

It is only out of these sources, then, I derive what might be called "my position." 
Accordingly, before denouncing Vernard Eller's "apoliticism" out of hand, any critic ought 
really to decide whether he means also to include Scripture and these other human 
authorities in that denunciation-or whether he is prepared to show that my interpretation 
of them is wrongheaded. I am ready to face the music either way; but I do think the critic 
needs to decide which is to be his tune. 

However, regarding the issue itself; I would say that whether or not our position fairly can 
be charged as "apolitical" depends entirely upon how one defines "political." If political" be 
taken in the narrow sense, as signifying those means and methods the world regularly 
accepts as normative for its doing of politics, then the position of me and mine clearly and is 
that of apoliticism. If, however, "political" be understood in the broad, etymological sense, 
as identifying whatever actions have public effect upon the life of the "city" (polis), then 
there are no grounds for accusing either "me" or any of "mine" of advocating apoliticism. 

No, Our position is meant precisely to challenge the assumption that the worldly way is the 
only way to be of ameliorative political effect. Consequently, we urge Christians to be as 
political as all get out, in their own peculiarly Christian way. Otherwise, if the gospel must 
simply accept and buy into the world's definition of politics, then as much as that gospel can 
hope to offer is counsel and instruction on how to play worldly power-politics effectively 
and well. And I can't see that as being much of a gospel at all. Anything expecting to be 
called "good news" just has to be better than that. 

I propose, therefore, that the basic distinction between worldly politics and Christian politics 
lies in two assumptions that are fundamental to the worldly practice but absolutely rejected 
by the gospel. 

In the first place, the exercise of worldly politics rests upon a quite unfounded confidence in 
the moral competency of human beings-and more particularly, upon a quite arrogant error 
in attributing categorical moral superiority to partisans of the one "true" ideology over 



against those of anybody else. This proud claim extends not only to moral wisdom ("We 
know what is right as no one else does") but also to moral authority ("Because we are right, 
that justifies our use of propaganda, demonstration, boycott, and all such power tactics in 
imposing our 'right' upon those people we know to be wrong"). Worldly politics is built upon 
pretentious claims of moral superiority-of which the Christian gospel recognizes nary a one. 

Second, it follows that a prime characteristic of worldly politics is its invariable forming of 
itself as "adversarial contest." There has to be a battle. One party, ideology, cause group, 
lobby, or power bloc which has designated itself as "The Good, the True, and the Beautiful" 
sets out to overbear, overwhelm, overcome, overpower, or otherwise impose itself on 
whatever opposing parties think they deserve the title. And if this power contest among the 
morally pretentious is what is meant by being "political," then Eller and company are indeed 
happy to be called "apolitical." 

We claim, however, that there is another form of politics-another form of action affecting 
the po//'s-that the gospel can fully approve. In this form, rather than one worldly party 
setting itself in moral judgment over all others, our political action would be submission to 
God's moral judgment upon everything and everyone human (which judgement, it is clear, 
falls firstly and foremostly upon God's very own partisans). Rather than taking sides, this 
politics would be nonpartisanly critical of all adversary contest and power play. It would be a 
politics intent on mediation and the reconciling of adversaries instead of supporting the 
triumph of one over another. It would be a political theology of liberation intent to liberate 
humanity from nothing so much as its enslavement to worldly politics. 

Nobody anywhere in this book says anything remotely suggesting that Christians need have 
no concern regarding the grave social problems of our world. I don't think anyone cited 
would have difficulty with Karl Barth's "not of this world" politics-which we undertake 
merely to suggest with a few quotations out of the chapter dealing exclusively with him. 

He [Barth] thought that the church could neither prescribe a political decision nor leave it 
open (as though it were merely "a matter of discretion"); [the church's] task was to make 
the issues quite clear. [This "clarifying of the issues" I take to mean an open and objective 
presentation of all interpretations and points of view rather than the pushing of the one 
ideological line the pastor (or some other partisan) has already decided is the Christian one.] 

The [church's] proclamation [of justice to the world] is good when it presents the specific 
commandment of God, and is not good when it puts forward the abstract truth of a political 
ideology. 

[The church should exercise] an active and responsible participation in the state. [But] of 
course, the church's decisive service to the state was, in Barth's view, its preaching: "By 
proclaiming the divine justification, it performs the best service to the establishment and 
maintenance of human justice." 

The church best performs its service in the midst of political change when its attitude is so 
independent and ... so sympathetic that it is able to summon the representatives of the old 
and new order alike [i.e., rightist supporters of the establishment and leftist supporters of 



the revolution] ... to humility, to the praise of God, and to humanity; and can invite them all 
to trust in the great change (in the death and resurrection of Christ) and to hope in his 
revelation. 

Obviously, there is a sense (the partisan power-contest sense) which Barth's position very 
accurately could be called "apolitical"— especially when he starts inviting secular 
bureaucracies to accept Jesus and trust in his coming again (that's politics?). Yet, just as 
obviously, if "apolitical" has to mean "socially unconcerned," "hopeless about any possibility 
of change," "helpless that either God or the church might publicly act"— if "apolitical" has to 
carry these overtones, then it is the last word in the world that will apply to Karl Barth. 

Consider that the "coming of Jesus" (even now underway) involves the greatest political 
change the world will ever see, namely, the disappearance of worldly politics with all its 
moral pretension and adversarial contest. And if this is what the coming of Jesus portends, 
then the first place this disappearance should be observable is among the members of 
Christ's body. Thus, God's indication is that the church should be moving away from hard- 
ball politics rather than (as we are doing) baptizing such politics-and this in complete 
disregard of what the hymnist knew almost a century ago: "For not with swords' loud 
clashing, / Nor roll of stirring drums, / But deeds of love and mercy, / The heavenly kingdom 
comes." 



Chapter One 

CHRISTIAN ANARCHY--THE VERY IDEA! 

Why don't we really get radical for once? Yes, I know it wasn't easy to get the word radical 
understood as an adjective appropriate to discipleship. And yes, it was even harder to get 
revolution and revolutionary so understood. But do you think it a bit more than the traffic 
can bear for me now to push on to anarchy? Do you see me going from bad to worse? Not 
so. I stand prepared to show that to go from revolution to anarchy is to go from wrong to 
right, from misunderstanding to understanding, from unbiblical to biblical, from world to 
gospel. And yes, it will take another transforming renewal of our minds to understand 
anarchy as the gospel, the good news it actually is. 

The word is ANARCHY. The prefix ("an-") is the equivalent of the English "un-," meaning 
"not"; it does not particularly mean "anti-" or against. Thus, we are speaking of that which is 
more not something than it is opposed to or against something. The "-archy" root (which I 
have made into an English term spelled a-r-k-y) is a common Greek word that means 
"priority," "primacy," "primordial," "principal," "prince," and the like. (Look at that last 
sentence and realize that "pri-" is simply the Latin equivalent of the Greek "arky.")The most 
frequent appearance of "arky" in the New Testament is translated as "beginning." Indeed, in 
Colossians 1:18 Paul actually identifies Jesus as "the beginning," "the prime," "THE ARKY." 
However, our particular concern with the word is in Paul's writings where it is translated 
"principalities." Clearly, the apostle assumes that we live in a world with arkys filled that 
threaten to undo us-and those constantly battling each other for primacy. 

For us, then, "arky" identifies any principle of governance claiming to be of primal value for 
society. "Government" (that which is determined to govern human action and events) is a 
good synonym-as long as we are clear, that political arkys are far from being the only 
"governments" around. Not at all; churches, schools, philosophies, social standards, peer 
pressures, fads and fashions, advertising, planning techniques, psychological and 
sociological theories-all are arkys out to govern us. 

"Anarchy" ("unarkyness"), it follows, is simply the state of being unimpressed with, 
disinterested in, skeptical of; nonchalant toward, and uninfluenced by the highfalutin claims 
of any and all arkys. And "Christian Anarchy"-the special topic of this book-is a Christianly 
motivated "unarkyness." Precisely because Jesus is THE ARKY, the Prime of Creation, the 
Principal of All Good, the Prince of Peace and Everything Else, Christians dare never grant a 
human arky the primacy it claims for itself Precisely because God is the Lord of History we 
dare never grant that it is in the outcome of the human arky contest that the determination 
of history lies. 

Obviously, the idea of "power" goes hand in hand with "arky"; the two are inseparable. 
Indeed, every time Paul uses "arky" in the sense of "principalities," he couples it with one of 
the Greek "power" words. Yet regarding both "power" and "arky" we must make a crucial 
specification: we are always supposing a power or a government that is imposed upon its 
constituency. It is, of course, proper to speak of, say, "the power of love." Yet this is power 
in an entirely different sense of the word in that it carries no hint of imposition at all. 



Looking only at the phrase itself; "the kingdom of God" would appear to be an "arky" no 
different from the others. Yet we will come to see that this is not so. When Jesus said "My 
kingdom is not of this world," he was saying that, although all worldly arkys have to be 
impositional, his is radically different in that it does not have to be-and in fact is not. 

This matter of an arky's being imposed leads us to the helpful term "heteronomy"--namely, 
that law or rule which is "different from," "other than," or "extraneous to" whomever it 
would govern. All worldly arkys are by nature heteronomous-each is out to impose its idea 
of what is right upon whoever has any different idea. 

Consequently, for secular anarchists the solution is "autonomy"-the self being a law unto 
itself (which is what we customarily have understood "anarchy" to be). However, 
Christianity contends that autonomy is simply another form of heteronomy, that to use my 
own self-image as the arky governing myself is actually to impose a heteronomous arky 
upon me. The assumption that I am the one who best knows myself and knows what is best 
for myself is to forget that I am a creature (a sinful creature, even) and that there is a 
Creator who, being my Creator (and also being somewhat smarter than I am), knows me 
much better than I ever can know myself. 

For Christian anarchists, then, the goal of anarchy is "theonomy"--the rule, the ordering, the 
arky of God. At this idea, of course, the world rises up to insist that the arky of God is just as 
impositional as (if not more so than) any other arky that might be named. But Christians say 
No-and that on two counts. First, particularly as God has been revealed in Jesus Christ, the 
style of his arky is not that of imposition but of the opposite, namely, that of the cross, the 
self-givingness of agape-love. And second, God's arky, his will for us, is never anything 
extraneous to ourselves but precisely most germane to our true destiny and being. 
Anarchist S0ren Kierkegaard hammered this one home with his analysis of the Danish word 
for "duty"-which, in our context, would represent God's arky for us." Kierkegaard writes: 
"For duty is not an imposition [in Danish, paalaeg, lit. "that which is laid upon"] but rather 
'duty' is something which is incumbent [in Danish, paaliger, lit. "that which lies upon"]." 
Rather than a heteronomous imposition, God's arky spells the discovery of that which is 
truest to myself and my world. 

The contention of Christian Anarchy, then, is that worldly arkys are of the "all" that "in 
Adam" dies and are no part of the "all" that "in Christ" is made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). 
Consequently, worldly arkys must die (and we must die to them) in order that the Arky of 
God (his kingdom) might be made alive in us (and us in it). 

At this point of definition, then, we should note that the idea of "revolution" is not 
anarchical in any sense of the word. Revolutionists are very strongly opposed to certain 
arkys that they know to be "bad" and to be the work of "bad people." However, they are 
just as strongly in favor of what they know to be "good" arkys that are the work of 
themselves and other good people like them. For instance, these revolutionists might seem 
to be superanarchical, finding nothing good to say about the establishment U.S. arky; but 
they turn out to be very proarchical, finding nothing but good to say about a revolutionary 
Sandinista arky. Indeed, the regular procedure of "revolution" is to form a (good) power- 
arky that can either overthrow and displace or else radically transform the (bad) arky 



currently in power. This selectivity amounts to a passionate faith in the power of arkys for 
human good and the farthest thing possible from a truly anarchical suspicion and mistrust of 
every human arky. Thus "anarchical" is a synonym for "nonpartisan"; and "anarchy" and 
"partisanship" are direct opposites. 

This book was written in a way no other of mine has been written. Some books I have been 
asked to do, some I have thought up on my own, some I have seen coming, some I have 
stumbled into-but into this one I was I was enticed by a serpent too innocent to know what 
he was doing. My old friend Bernard Ramm, evangelical beyond fundamentalism and 
professor at American Baptist Seminary of the West, simply wrote me a brief note: 

I would appreciate a letter from you on "passive anarchism." The bulk of the material on the 
subject is devoted to the various Russian or revolutionary views. But I suspect that there is a 
"passive Christian anarchism" ("all states are created equally wicked"). One review just 
mentioned Blumhardt-and if my memory serves me okay, you have a book on the 
father/son. 

Now that poor man certainly wrote to me without the intention of starting anything. 
Nevertheless, I gave him just what he was asking for-beginning with a long letter; which I 
intended to use also as an article, but which wound up as the very chapter you are now 
reading. 

However, my first reaction to Ramm's note was, "what on earth is he talking about? I don't 
know anything about 'anarchism period'-let alone 'passive Christian anarchism.' And I 
haven't the foggiest as to what all that has to do with the Blumhardts. Coming to me, he's 
got him the wrong boy." 

Yet, if I were to have any chance of keeping Bernie bluffed regarding my scholarly 
reputation, I would have to come up with something. And the something I did come up with 
was the recollection that Ell ul had had an article on the topic some years back. I must have 
been feeling tired or ornery when I originally read it, because I had entirely dismissed it as 
one of his less successful efforts. All I could remember is that he had set out to demonstrate 
the agreement between his personal version of Christianity (which he called "anarchism") 
and the secular anarchism of what Ramm calls "the various Russian or revolutionary views." 
It had been my impression that, in the process, Ellul had so qualified his Christian anarchism 
as to lose any real concept of "anarchy" entirely. 

Yet, for Ramm's sake, I had to dig up that old article, "Anarhism and Christianity" 
(KATALLAGETE [Fall 1980]; hereafter: Anarchism). In the process, of course, I reread it-no, 
truly read it for the first time: "Oh, that's what you meant by 'Christian anarchism.' Right on, 
Friar Jacques! And sure, if that's what anarchism is, then that's exactly where the 
Blumhardts belong, too." 

So now, as "the oracle of the man whose eye is opened (finally)," I propose here to enlarge 
Ellul's insight into a thesis regarding Christian history itself. To my mind, Ellul demonstrates 
decisively that a particular version of "anarchism" (Ramm's adjective "passive" is not quite 
the right modifier) is the sociopolitical stance of the entire Bible in general and the New 



Testament in particular. I would add that, from there, the understanding was picked up by 
that church tradition perhaps most often identified with "radical discipleship"-through 
which it came even to Ellul himself. 

In very broad strokes, I would trace that somewhat amorphous (anarchical, of course) 
tradition thus: Although there are scattered flashes within earlier church history, the thread 
first establishes itself in the Radical Reformation of the sixteenth century. There it is found 
in the Anabaptists, predecessors of the Mennonites and other groups. My own Church of 
the Brethren was born out of this tradition in the eighteenth century. And there are other 
denominations that show more or less of the influence since. Not necessarily the term 
"anarchism" but the spirit and idea could be cited out of the early life of all these bodies. 

As we move from institutional groupings to individual thinkers, the anarchism is even easier 
to spot. The title of the published doctoral dissertation version of my doctoral dissertation 
was "Kierkegaard and Radical Discipleship" (perhaps the first time the phrase "radical 
discipleship" in print). And it doesn't require much effort to show that, in attitude, S.K. was 
quite anarchistic toward church, state, and society. 

I didn't know where Ramm had found the word anarchy in connection with the Blumhardts; 
but the identification is accurate. The one explicit use of the word I find is in the younger 
Blumhardt's statement: 

Of course, thought cannot go too far in this direction before we come upon a word which is 
very much forbidden today. Yet there is something to be said for it. I will state it right out: 
"Anarchy" Regarding the inhabitants of earth, a certain freedom, a veritable rulelessness, 
would almost be better than this nailed-up-tight business which as much as turns individual 
peoples into herds of animals closed to every great thought. (Thy Kingdom Come [Eerdmans, 
1980], p. 21) 

And the idea, if not the word, comes through in the following remarks-which could be 
multiplied at length: 

All [the arkydom] we have had up to this point is on its last run downwards. Our theology is 
moving down with the rapidity of a lowering storm. Our ecclesiastical perceptions are 
rapidly becoming political perceptions. Our worship services are being accommodated to 
the world. And thus it is necessary that all that has been should cease, should come to its 
end, making room again for something new, namely, the kingdom of God. 

Again: 

People are afraid of the collapse of the world. I am looking forward to it. I wish it would 
begin right now to crash break apart. For this world of the humanly great is and remains the 
cause of all misery. They cannot do anything about it, these well-intentioned people, these 
good things and ministers, these excellent prelates and popes. However much they try, they 
cannot. I would like to tell all of them, "You cannot do it!" 

In this next quote, Blumhardt makes clear that it is only because of the eschatological 
character of the faith we can afford to be anarchical regarding this world: 



"Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matt. 28:20). The Savior's being with us 
has reference to the end the world, not to its continuance.... Jesus is not with a person who 
spends his days for the sole purpose of sustaining earthly life. The Lord does not wish to 
spend too much effort on the continuance of the world. After all, it is corruptible; there 
nothing left to be done but to await the wearing out of the decaying structure and the 
creating of a new one. 

For the time being, we must do the best we can with what we have.... [But] in all our work, 
then, let us be careful to fix our eyes, not on the continuance of the world, but on its end. 
(Pp. 121-22) 

Subsequent to the Blumhardts, then, Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have shown more- 
or-less anarchistic tendencies-in that order. In his second edition of the commentary on 
Romans, wrote: 

What is true of the generality of men is true also of the men of God. As men they do not 
differ from other men.... There are no saints in the midst of a company of sinners.... Their 
criticism and invective and indictment of the world inevitably place them-unless they be 
themselves its object-within the world and betray that they too are of it.... This is as true of 
Paul, the prophet and apostle of the Kingdom of God, and of Jeremiah, as it is of Luther, 
Kierkegaard, and Blumhardt! (P. 57). 

Goodness knows the thought expressed here is anarchical enough of itself. Yet it is the 
accident of that final sentence which is so telling for our purpose. Undoubtedly in a quite 
offhand way, stopping to think, Barth nominates his Christian saints (who he knows, of 
course, would be the very last people to claim sainthood for themselves). Nevertheless, with 
the exception of Jeremiah, our study will, in a greater or lesser way, tie each of these 
thinkers into the tradition of Christian Anarchy. Whether consciously or only subconsciously, 
Barth knew himself to stand in the very succession we have in mind for him. 

Finally, along comes Jacques Ellul to crystallize the idea and give it what is probably the most 
self-conscious and explicit exposition the tradition has produced. Now, for the first time, it is 
out where we can talk about it. 

Probably the most typical and conspicuous model of the radical-discipleship tradition of our 
day is Sojourners magazine, although the current intellectual and theological leadership of 
the Brethren and Mennonite churches, plus all the recent converts of the new 
evangelicalism, belong there as well. Yet the concept of Christian Anarchy is so very crucial 
today because it enables us to see that what commonly passes as the radical-discipleship 
tradition has slipped a cog that actually puts it clear outside the biblical and historical 
tradition we have just traced. As Ellul says: "The Christians who are engaged in the 
theological overhaul to which we have alluded are politically Leftist, even extreme Left. But 
they do not really know what anarchism is" (Anarchism, p. 15). 

More recently, Ellul has published an autobiography, in interview form, entitled In Season, 
Out of Season (Harper & Row, 1982; hereafter, Season). In it, he uses the term anarchy only 
infrequently-and the term or concept Christian anarchy, never. Yet wide-flung passages are 



germane. For example, in response to the question "Do you consider yourself an anarchist?" 
he says: 

The anarchist milieu is the only one in which I often feel ease. I am myself there. On the 
other hand, I am not at ease either in the right-wing milieu, which doesn't interest me, or in 
the left-wing milieu, for whom I am not overly a socialist or even less a communist. And I am 
not at all, really not at all at ease in the milieu of the Christian left.... 

[The interviewer asks:] Aren't you nevertheless a partisan of a more rational society? 

Oh, no, not at all. On the contrary, I believe that the greatest good that could happen to 
society today is an increasing disorder.... I am in no way pleading in favor of a different 
social order. I am pleading for the regression of all the powers of order, (pp. 195-96) 

Ellul's "anarchism" has him most markedly distinguished from and opposed to those intent 
on creating "a new, Christian social order." That is the group he identifies as "the Christian 
Left." And what we have here called "the contemporary version of radical discipleship" 
clearly constitutes at least one segment of that Christian Left. The problem (as shall become 
clear) is that these people are totally dedicated to "revolution" where Ellul sees Christianity 
dedicated to "anarchy." The two ideas are not simply different but actually opposed to each 
other. And it is to this point we will return time and again throughout the treatment that 
follows. 

Ellul grounds his concept of Christian Anarchy with a quick survey of the Bible, focusing 
upon its opinion of that particular (and perhaps prototypical) arky, the civil government, or 
state. I shall do an even quicker survey of his survey, centering upon those places where I 
want to say something of my own. 

As key and theme statement, Ellul naturally uses God's and Samuel's warnings about what 
will be the harvest of Israel's bright dreams for a "mono-arky." Right out of the gate, then, 
King Saul demonstrates the truth of what God and Samuel had said. Ellul next calls David's 
reign "an exception" and proceeds to recount the sad history of the remainder of the 
monarchy. But I want to insist that David is not the exception but actually the heart of the 
pattern. (I do not like to hear it said that I automatically accept whatever Ellul says as being 
gospel truth; that is not [quite] true.) 

Until the time of David's adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, it is 
indeed the case that he was brilliantly successful in forming a strong arky that accomplished 
all sorts good for Israel. Yet upon the discovery of that sin, God tells the king, 

"I anointed you king over Israel [and did all these fine things through you].... And if this were 
too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the word of 
the Lord, to do evil in his sight?" (2 Sam. 12:7-9) 

None of David's accomplishments actually should be credited to the power of his arky. They 
were manifestations of God's arky working through him. David's sin, then, was precisely the 
claiming of that arky power as his own, proposing that his kingly arky gave privilege even 
over God's moral arky that prohibits murder. And if, even with so good and dedicated a 
believer as David, power-arky inevitably goes pretentious, then what hope is there that 



other human arkys can ever do better? Hear the word of Blumhardt to these well- 
intentioned people, these good kings and ministers, these excellent prelates and popes 
(these zealous Christian revolutionaries): "You cannot do it!" 

Far from being the exception, David is our one best argument. With his arkycal pretension 
(even though repented), his career goes into the skid that runs right on through the breakup 
of the kingdum under Solomon and into the disaster of the kings that followed. Indeed, in 
the process of recounting the gosh-awfulness of the arky of one King Jehoram, the writer 
says, "Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he 
promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever" (2 Kings 8:19). God's covenantal 
promise was the only thing keeping the Davidic arky afloat. And of course, even that sad 
ship sank once for all, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile. 

Does this mean, then, that God's covenant with David came to nothing? Not at all. By this 
time, prophets had come to see that the track of God's promise was never meant to be that 
of the human arky of David; that was a false lead. No, the actual track of the covenant was 
that pointing to the coming Messiah, the one true Son of David. And that Jesus, of course, 
turned out to be King of the one truly anarchist, nonimpositional, nonheteronomous, not- 
of-this worldly-kingdom. Ellul is right that the Bible's mainline tradition regarding politics is 
most "unarkycal," can be deemed as nothing but "anarchist." 

In the New Testament (our discussion of which will not always rely on Ellul) Jesus is being 
presented as history's Arch-Anarchist (if that oxymoron be allowed). Quite in passing (this 
not from Ellul), the German New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias (in Rediscovering the 
Parables [Scribner; 1966], pp. 96-97) makes an observation that is most supportive of our 
argument. He opines, first, regarding the Gospel;accounts of the temptation of Jesus, that it 
is likely the Master, perhaps on different occasions, used three different "parables" (stones 
into bread; leap from the temple; and worship the devil) to recount to his disciples what 
was actually one temptation experience rather than three separate ones. Then Jeremias 
suggests, "He told his disciples about his victory over the temptation to present himself as a 
political messiah-perhaps in order to warn them against a similar temptation." 

Yet, "political messiah" is precisely what a good many Christian leftists would now make of 
Jesus-namely, sponsor of the particular revolutionary arky they have in mind for bringing 
peace and justice to the world. As much as any word in Scripture, Jesus' condemning of 
arky-messiahship as a temptation places him distinctly in "anarchy" over against any and all 
who, instead, hold that are indeed good human arkys elected and sponsored by God. 

Another picture of Jesus' anarchism (again, of my choice rather than Ellul's) is his 
appearance before Pilate, particularly as it is recounted in John 18:33-19:11. Let me try a 
paraphrase that-admittedly far from Jesus in its language-may nevertheless catch the 
"feel" of the incident: 

Please, fella, don't bother yourself to tell me how great is this Roman Empire of yours and 
how great the fact that you are a governor of it. I've heard that stuff all my life and know 
already. Yet I also happen to know that the one, real, kingdom isn't even o/this world. I 
know, too, that you couldn't as much as lift a finger if my Father didn't let you it. Sure, you 



can crucify me-if he lets you. But there is no way you can eliminate me. So just can it, Pilate. 
I don't want to talk to you, because nothing you say makes one bit of difference anyhow. 
Let's get on with this crucifixion; and I'll see you day after tomorrow, in church at the Easter 
Sunrise Service, OK? 

Would it not be fair to characterize that attitude as "anarchistic"? Jesus will grant not one 
bit of weight to Pilate and his Empire. 

Another such picture (chosen by Ellul rather than Eller) is that of Jesus and the tribute 
money (Mark 12:13-17). There Jesus' questioners face him with the political choice they 
consider all-decisive: "Are you going to be a rightist who supports the civil establishment 
with your taxes; or are you going to be a leftist revolutionary who opposes that evil 
establishment by withholding them?" To which Jesus comes back as perfect anarchist: "I'm 
not going to be either one. That's a fake choice. Whether a person chooses God or not is the 
only real issue-and one's political preference has nothing to do with it. Give God what 
belongs to God." 

As Ellul puts it: 

"Render unto Caesar..." in no way divides the exercise of authority into two realms.... [Those 
words] were said in response to another matter: the payment of taxes, and the coin. The 
mark on the coin is that of Caesar; it is the mark of his property. Therefore give Caesar this 
money; it is his. It is not a question of legitimizing taxes! It means that Caesar, having 
created money, is its master. That's all. Let us not forget that money, for Jesus, is the 
domain of Mammon, a satanic domain. (Anarchism, p. 20) 

As noted, the above has been only somewhat dependent upon Ellul. When he comes to 
Romans 13, however; Ellul really shines. The passage, of course, is the first a person 
normally would go to in order ti rebut our "anarchism" argument. But Ellul won't let such 
people have it; he wants it as a key to his argument. His contention is that there is nothing 
here lending one bit of legitimacy to human arky, Roman or otherwise. Rather, what Paul 
actually is about is deliberately citing and following Jesus, in the effort to protect "anarchy" 
from being confused with, and misread as, "revolution." 

Thus, "there is no authority except from God," etc. (v. 1) says nothing different from what 
we just heard Jesus say in John 19:11. If I may help him a bit, Paul is saying: "Be clear, any of 
those human arkys are where they are only because God is allowing them to be there. They 
exist only at his sufferance. And if God is willing to put up with a stinker like the Roman 
Empire, you ought to be willing to put up with it, too. There is no indication God has called 
you to clear it out of the way or get it converted for him. You can't fight an Empire without 
becoming like the Roman Empire; so you had better leave such matters in God's hands 
where they belong." 

Then, in verses 6-7, Paul in effect joins Jesus in warning against the withholding of taxes. 
Such action smacks of fighting the empire. The proper name for it is "tax revolt"-and that 
signifies the pitting of a "good" revolutionary arky against the "bad" establishment one. 
Otherwise, letting Caesar take his coin-as Jesus would have it-is the "anarchy" of going so 



completely with God's arky that any and all human arkys (along with their tax coins) become 
as nothing. Just the opposite, withholding the coin is the "revolution" that stakes everything 
upon the contest of human arkys-supposedly to insure the victory of the good, Christian 
arky that will spell the salvation of the race. 

Finally, Ellul picks up on the fact that Paul explicitly does not name military service as 
something owed to the government. He takes this to indicate that Paul, again, understood 
himself to be following Jesus in seeing that the logic of tax payment does not apply 
regarding military service. A human being is anything but the "nothing" a few tax coins are. 
And the human being bears the image of God, not of the emperor. A true anarchist will 
never grant that any worldly arky (including the church) owns people. 

With this, we come to some basic principles of Christian Anarchy (several of them straight 
out of Ellul): 

1. For Christians, "anarchy" is never an end and goal in itself. The dying-off of arky (or 
our dying to arky) is of value only as a making of room for the Arky of God. 

2. Christian anarchists have no opinion as to whether secular society would be better 
off with anarchy than it is with all its present hierarchies. We can say only as much as 
Blumhardt said: "There is no way anarchy could be much worse than the nailed-up- 
tight business we have now." 

3. Christian anarchists do not even argue that anarchy is a viable option for secular 
society. Ellul: "Political authority and organization are necessities of social life but 
nothing more than necessities. They are constantly tempted to take the place of 
God" (Anararchism, p. 22). 

4. The threat of the arkys is not so much their existence as it is our granting that 
existence reality and weight-our giving ourselves to them, attaching importance to 
them, putting faith in them, making idols of them. Revolutionists fall into this trap in 
their intention of using good arkys to oppose and displace the bad ones-thus 
granting much more power and being to the arkys (both evil power to the bad ones 
and righteous power to the good ones) than is the truth of the matter. 

5. Christian anarchists do not hold that arkys, by nature, are "of the devil." Such 
absolutist, damning talk is rather the mark of revolutionists concerned to make an 
enemy arky look as bad as possible in the process of making their own arky look 
good. No, for Christian anarchists the problem with arkys is, rather, that they are "of 
the human"-i.e., they are creaturely, weak, ineffectual, not very smart, while at the 
same time they are extravagantly pretentious. They pose as so much more 
important (or fearsome) than they actually are. There is no intent to deny that this 
"human fleshliness" does indeed provide entree for the devil-but that is as much 
into good arkys as into bad ones. The only thing more devilish than a "bad" arky is a 
"holy" one. 

6. Christian anarchists would not buy Ramm's clever characterization that "all states 
are created equally wicked." They would agree that all are equally human and none 
the least bit divine. But my Brethren ancestors, for instance, were well aware that 
when they fled the persecuting arkys of Germany for the (comparatively) free arky of 
William Penn, they were trading a bad arky for a better one. And they were 
appropriately grateful to God for the change. But that from which their anarchy did 



preserve them was the confusing of Penn's arky with the kingdom of God. An arky is 
an "arky" for all that. None is as good as it thinks it is or gives itself out to be, and 
there is no guarantee that even a good one will stay good. The particular Brethren 
turf within Penn's arky is now a Philadelphia slum. 

So, good arky or not, those anarchists retained a healthy biblical suspicion of arkys in 
general and en toto. There is no denying that, as he chooses, God can and does 
make positive use of the arkys-bad ones as well as good ones. It does not follow 
that we dare ever accept any as being select instruments of his goodness and grace. 

And it was none other than anarchist Ellul who once chided the Christian 
revolutionists for their inability to see any moral distinction between the arky of the 
U.S. government and those of Hitler and Stalin. Christian Anarchy does allow room 
for the relative moral distinctions between arky and arky-and real appreciation for 
the same. 

7. It is no part of Christian Anarchy to want to attack, subvert, unseat, or try to bring 
down any of the world's arkys. (It is here that Ramm's "passive" makes sense, 
although it will not do so regarding points to follow.) To fight arkys, we have seen, is 
toform counterarkys, is to enter the contest of power (precisely that which Christian 
Anarchy rejects in principle), is to introduce arky in the very attempt to eliminate it. 
To undertake a fight against evil on its own terms (to pit power against power) is the 
first step in becoming like the evil one opposes. 

8. Speaking of anarchy's model, Ellul says: "Jesus does not represent a-politicism or 
spiritualism. His is a fundamental attack upon [he would better have said 'refusal to 
conform to'] political authority.... He challenges every attempt to validate the 
political realm and rejects its authority because it does not conform to the will of 
God" (Anarchism, p. 20). With this and what follows, Christian Anarchy can no longer 
be called "passive." 

9. Regarding Jeremiah's command that the exiles are to "seek the welfare of the city 
where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf" (Jer. 29:7), Ellul 
points out that such is not at all the same thing as approving and supporting the 
Babylonian arky. Just so, the radical-discipleship churches that have been most 
anarchist toward the state and the world may have the best track records regarding 
the loving of neighbors near and far and the serving of human need. Anarchism is no 
bar to social service. Whether the ends of political _/ust/'ce truly are served by our 
power-manipulation of the arkys is another question. 

10. Christian anarchists occasionally are willing to work through and even use worldly 
arkys when they see a chance to accomplish some immediate human good thereby. 
This is an admittedly risky business; the regular pattern is to make a quick entrance 
and just as quick an exit. 

For example, the civil arky of Christoph Blumhardt's day was really putting it to the 
working classes, and anarchist Blumhardt saw the revolutionary arky of the Social 
Democrats as a vehicle for helping those people get their rights. He joined the party, 
spoke for it, ran for office, and won a six-year term in the Wurttemberg legislature. 
But it didn't take a whole lot of arky red tape and politicking before he lost not only 



his interest but his cool: "I am proud stand before you as a man; and if politics 
cannot tolerate a human being, then let politics be damned." That, my friends, is 
pure Essence of Anarchy: "Human beings, yes; politicians, never!" Blumhardt got out 
as soon as he graciously could. 

Quick-in-and-quick-out is a proper anarchist maneuver but certainly not any moral 
obligation. Neither Blumhardt nor Ell ul would claim his arky-adventures as the 
greatest contribution he has made. In fact, Ellul-who has been into as many of these 
as anyone-is inclined to deny that they ever accomplished anything: 

I had seen the failure of the Popular Front in 1936; the failure of the 
personalist movement, which we intended to be revolutionary and which we 
tried to start on a modest scale; the failure of the Spanish revolution, which 
had great importance for Charbonneau and me; and the failure of the 
liberation [of France at the close of World War II]. All of this formed an 
accumulation of ruined revolutionary possibilities. After this, I never believed 
anything could be changed by this route. (Season, p. 56) 

This attitude surely is poles away from the current revolutionist idea that the truest 
(if not "only true") Christian actions are those having political, arky relevance. 

The anarchist maneuver, though proper, actually holds a very real danger of getting 
caught. Caught, first: The only members wanted by an arky are true believers. Spies, 
subversives, and heretics are likely to be shot on sight. Caught, second: Even the 
strongest anarchist runs the risk of losing his anarchism-his good, honest 
skepticism-in the surroundings of arky propaganda. He so easily can get to thinking 
that politicians actually do have more power in determining the future than the rest 
of us mere mortals do. He can so easily get caught up in the idea that what we in fact 
are doing is making the world safe for democracy, winning the world for Christ, 
building a just social order, reversing the arms race, or (as a well-known hymn has it) 
pushing through God's long-tarrying kingdom by bringing in the day of brotherhood 
and ending the night of wrong-when all that actually is happening is that an arky is 
becoming more and more impressed by its own importance in the scheme of things. 
And, of course, once such an anarchist starts "believing" in what he is doing, he is 
done for. 

Ell u I again: "As a Christian one must participate in the world of action. But one must 
do so to reject it, to confront it with ... refusal that alone can call into question, or 
even prevent, the unchecked growth of power" (Anarchism, p. 22). 

11. Ellul's critique of "Christian revolutionism" is perhaps best summed up as "a lack of 
realism." And that, in turn, can be spelled out under four heads-namely, the 
revolutionary faith in (1) activism; (2) utopianism; (3) what we shall call "the trigger 
effect"; and (4) dramatization. Although, obviously, Ellul finds the Christian Left to be 
the opposite case, he believes that "Christians can be, among other things, more 
realistic and less ideological than others" (Season, p. 91). 



a. Activism. Ellul, certainly, is not opposed to Christians being on the political, 
social, or ecclesiastical scenes or whatever. He does reject the activist 
presupposition that people's public, arky actions are the only true test of 
their Christian faith, temperament, this one came hard for him: 

"Because I have a realistic and active nature, meaning lay in action. 
But it is obvious that, for me, action itself does not embody meaning. 
Action more or less gives witness to meaning, expresses it to me or 
others. But the most basic meaning is beyond all action" (Season, p. 
83). 

Ellul would not be one to say that as long as your actions are good (i.e., 
Christian) your theological beliefs aren't very important. 

In fact, churchly activism regularly works just contrary to truly Christian 
action: "When we see Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit act, a tremendous 
number of things come out of very little: look at the feeding of the five 
thousand. In the church we observe just the opposite: we put excellent men 
into action and we mount gigantic efforts that produce almost nothing. So I 
say to myself, This means that the Holy Spirit is not working'" (Season, p. 94). 
Human activism can represent an actual blockage of the Spirit's work. 

Ellul makes a more fundamental point which, in a succeeding chapter, we will 
find even more strongly pressed by Karl Barth: 

There is no possible continuity between man's actions on earth and 
God's establishment of his kingdom.... Man can't achieve good on his 
own. And I again have to clarify here. The good of which Scripture 
speaks is not the equivalent of moral goodness but a condition of 
conformity to God's will. And the good that any moral philosophy 
describes to us may not necessarily coincide with God's will as it is 
shown to us in the revelation. In other words, when we say that man 
can't do good on his own, it means that man can't do God's will with 
out God. (Season, p. 59) 

This brings Ellul to a conclusion that will have his followers from the Christian 
Left accusing him of having deserted the faith: 

I was hostile to the politicization of the church, the primacy of politics; 
I was violently [he means "strongly," of course] against a well-known 
slogan: "Seek first the political kingdom and all these things will be 
added unto you."... The popular opinion held that Christianity should 
be expressed above all in service.... I maintained that service means 
nothing if there is not an explicit proclamation of the message of Jesus 
Christ as Lord and Savior. (Season, p. 96). 

Obviously, Ellul does not see the gospel as centering in Christian activism. 



As a result, Ellul is very leery of today's common assumption that Christians 
can magnify their power for good by joining forces with secular arkys that are 
pursuing some social goals: 

Should Christians join existing movements, those that are most just; 
should they, for example, side with the poor man; or does Christianity 
have something really specific and unique that should not be mixed 
up with anything else? Does God want to carry out a different action 
in history through Christians, who consequently don't need to adopt 
ready-made plans and doctrines? I am totally in favor of the second 
perspective.... [So] it is not a matter of founding a party or a Christian 
labor of union or of uniting Christians around a social doctrine of the 
church. Nor is it that Christians should join any particular party. 
(Season, p. 90) 

When we get to that succeeding chapter, we will find Karl Barth strongly 
"Amening" this point. The ideology of Christian activism has us humans 
pushing in to take over and do God's work for him-with what cannot be 
anything but disastrous results. Our Christian anarchists, on the other hand, 
are with Jesus in wanting to put the stopper on the activist obsession to serve 
God by being out there pulling up tares (Matt. 13:24-30). 

Utopianism. Ellul lays it out. "I have already said how much all Utopians 
irritate me, both for their lack of realism and their authoritarianism" (Season, 
p. 219). 

And is not the revolutionary rhetoric of the Christian Left -whether in talking 
about "unilateral disarmament," "a world without war," "a truly just society," 
"the disappearance of the distinction between males and females," "an 
economic equality," "a dean environment," and whatever-invariably and 
essentially Utopian? And, as Ellul would have it, does not this utopianism 
show a complete pragmatic political possibility and, likewise, an imperious 
decree in telling the world what order it should be getting itself into? 

Consider that "the kingdom of God" (according to the scriptural 
definition)cannot be considered a utopia-because in no way is it a projection 
of what we propose to create, an order we are undertaking to impose on 
things. Ellul, then, observes: 

Every program founded on our [human] analysis can only be a Utopia. 
Now, I am violently opposed to any Utopia because it is the epitome 
of illusory satisfactions.... Utopia is the final blow in humanity's death. 
And it is a very concrete death: the last two great Utopias were those 
visions of idealism and the future known as Nazism and Stalinism. 
Now, motivated by a desire to transform society globally, anyone who 
makes a panoramic and final description of this transformation can 
only be proposing a Utopia. (Season, p. 198) 



c. "The Trigger Effect. " With this I have in mind the common arky assumption 
that, by bringing our power to bear and working a change at "the top," we 
can trigger a revolution of the entire system. Ellul thinks differently: 

I have arrived at this maxim: "Think globally, act locally." This 
represents the exact opposite of the present spontaneous [i.e., that 
which comes naturally to us] procedure.... We have the spontaneous 
tendency to demand centralized action, the state, through a decision 
center that sends down the decrees from above; but this can no 
longer have any success. The human facts are too complex and the 
bureaucracy will become heavier and heavier. (Season, pp. 199-200) 

Consider, also, first, that "local action"-having a much shorter linkage 
between "act" and "result"-has a much greater chance of success than does 
"top-down action." Second, there is a great deal of local action that won't 
have to indude arky involvement at all. And third, locally, even where political 
action is required, the arkys are smaller; weaker, and more responsive. They 
will not call for the same sort of bloc pressure and power plays that high-level 
politics would. It is local action that is most appropriate to Christian Anarchy. 

Yet consider how regularly our Christian revolutionaries-with their anti- 
nuclear demonstrations, their tax revolts, their Equal Rights Amendments, 
their getting the U.S. military out of Central America-prefer to try for the 
high-up jugular. Christian Anarchy (Ellul and the Christian Left plainly are of 
two quite different minds in this matter. (Of course, this dream of changing 
things from the top is just as characteristic of the Right as of the Left-and 
Ellul would find it equally objectionable there.) 

d. Dramatization. The term is Ellul's— or rather his interviewer's-but it intends 
"playing up," "exaggerating," or perhaps what we later will call "zealotism" or 
"absolutizing." Ellul confesses that in his earlier writings he tended to 
dramatize the threat of particular evils "in order to back people into a corner, 
because I had the conviction that human beings are so negligent, so lazy, that 
they are not driven to defend themselves, they will do everything possible to 
avoid commitment" (Season, p. 223). But then he goes on to say, 

I do not write in quite the same way now, because the incredibly frivolous 
and thoughtless world of my youth has given way to a general conviction in 
people that the situation is hopeless. People today are afraid. Thus I will not 
tell them, in the atomic bomb: "It is appalling, we will all be blown away." I 
think, on the contrary, that I should say: "There ninety-nine chances in a 
hundred that it will never explode." Season, p. 224) 

Because Christian Anarchy doesn't always have to be trying for "results," it 
can afford to be realistic and thus also more honest. And because it can be 
honest (speaking the truth in love), Christian Anarchy also can be less 
manipulatively authoritarian. It isn't trying to make anybody do anything. 



Ellul's last word-only for the Season book, of course, though it would also 
serve well in the other sense-perhaps best shows the extent of the gap 
between himself and our social revolutionists: 

I was mistaken in my hope of triggering the beginning of a 
transformation of society. 

[The interviewer asks:] Do you think you were speaking to deaf ears? 

I don't pass judgments. I said what I thought, and it was not heard. I 
probably said it badly. But much more important, I may have had the 
opportunity at times to bear witness to Jesus Christ. Perhaps through 
my words or my writing, someone met the savior, the only one, the 
unique one, beside whom all human projects are childishness; then, if 
this has happened, I will be fulfilled, and for that, glory to God alone. 
(Season, pp. 232-33) 

12. The nonconformity of Christian Anarchy-the refusal to recognize or accept the 
authority of the arkys of this world-is done in the name of human "freedom." And 
this is not at all the same thing as "autonomy"-that being the secular name for 
freedom, not the Christian. No human arky can create or grant freedom; the idea of 
"government," of "imposed arky," is essentially contradictory to that of "freedom." 
"Yet, just as truly, the simple elimination of arky creates, not freedom, but only 
"anarchy"-which is not the same thing. No, Ell ul suggests that there is for us no 
once-for-all liberation, but that our freedom is to be found only in the act of wresting 
it from the powers. "It exists when we shake an edifice, produce a fissure, a gap in 
the structure" (Anarchism p. 23). 

That fissure may be as small (or as great) as Jesus' disinclination to respond to Pilate. 
What really gets in among the ribs of an arky is when anyone, upon being spoken to, 
fails to snap to attention, salute, and say, yes, sir" (or what is more likely, regarding a 
big arky of our day, "Yes, ma'am!"). Arkys don't really care whether you love them or 
fear them; what they can't stand is being ignored. Another fissure may be as small 
(or as great) as laughing in the face of arky pretentiousness-which is just what God 
did through the resurrection of Jesus. That gives big-shots as much trouble as being 
ignored-or anything else threatening their sense of self-importance. True, as with 
Jesus, showing disrespect toward an arky is best way of getting yourself crucified 
(only verbally, of course, our day of "loquacious damnation"). But anarchists are 
used to that. 

Yet even with this fissure making, it is not as though we were creating freedom for 
ourselves. No, it is, rather, as the Blumhardt' put it, that we have made a space for 
something new: the Arky God-the God whose service is perfect freedom through 
Jesus Chris our Lord. Amen. 

Regarding the tradition of my own Church of the Brethren, it easy to see that ours was 
indeed a truly biblical anarchism up to the halfway point of this century-when we 



converted to revolutionism. Perhaps an illustration can best show the nature and magnitude 
of the switch. Two Christian men were involved in the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) in two 
quite different ways, for quite different purposes, seeking quite different goals. Both were 
intent to help "the poor"-but had quite different ideas as to who the poor were and how 
they could best be helped. 

Earlier in this chapter we saw how Jacques Ellul, the first these two, was involved as a 
political partisan-wh ich means, course, an "adherent of a particular party line." So for him 
"the poor" identified that particular ideological, class-distinguished social bloc arrayed 
against the oppressing powers of General Franco. Ellul's faith was that, if properly 
conducted, the political contest could be directed so as to bring justice to the "poor" side of 
the alignment. 

Our other Christian activist was a Brethren leader named Dan West, in Spain as a Brethren 
Service Commission representative doing relief work. Just the opposite of Ellul, the 
approach of Dan West and his church was carefully nonpartisan. Thus they did not identify 
"the poor" with any sort of ideological grouping but simply as whatever individuals had 
needs the church was in position to serve. "Poverty" didn't even have to be understood 
sheerly as an economic category. And the church kept its involvement strictly non-partisan 
precisely so it could be free to serve any and all kinds of distinction. 

One of Dan West's jobs in Spain was distributing dried milk-and it was while so involved he 
got the better idea of persuading the Brethren farmers back home to donate live animals to 
replenish the herds, flocks, hutches, cotes, and hives of the devastated areas of the world. 
That idea gradually took form to become, today, Heifer International-a large-scale, long- 
lived, massively effective interdenominational service agency-which has been able to do its 
work only by sticking to the rule of political nonpartisanship. Jacques Ellul, of course, is quick 
to say that his Spanish adventure accomplished nothing at all. Neither Dan West nor anyone 
else would have said the same about his. 

Yet here is the two-way switch: Jacques Ellul on the one hand and our current Brethren 
equivalents of Dan West on the other have traded places. Completely disillusioned about 
finding possibilities for good in political revolution and rapid social change, Ellul became a 
Christian anarchist. Theoretically, I suppose, he would agree that //we could in fact engineer 
a revolution that would create a just social order, that might mark a higher accomplishment 
than simply feeding hungry people. The trouble, of course, is that he has never found any 
indication that arky revolution can be trusted to deliver on its promises. Human beings just 
aren't morally capable of controlling arky power and making it work to beneficial ends. 
Power corrupts-as someone other than Ellul has said. 

That is Ellul's switch. Now, switching the other direction, we have a Mennonite scholar's 
study, distributed by the Peace Section of the Mennonite Cent:ral Committee (the 
counterpart of Dan West's Brethren Service Commission). The locus now is Nicaragua rather 
than Spain, but the church's historic nonpartisanship is belittled as "quietism"-with the call 
that it be replaced by an ideological partisanship of the strongest order. Now, rather than a 
nondiscriminating concern for poor individuals of whatever political persuasion and 
whatever variety of "poverty," the formula runs: "the poor" = the Nicaraguan "people" = the 



partisans of the Sandista Revlution. (And I don't see how this can avoid the implication that 
any dissenters from or critics of the revolution are "nonpeople.") 

What I find most frightening about the Mennonite article is that the Christian gospel is 
equated directly with left-wing politics. Biblical-anarchicval Mennonites and Brethren are 
now encouraged to enter the worldly arky contest with such completely partisan power 
plays as tax-withholding, the sanctuary movement's organized and advertised defiance of 
the government, civil disobedience, vengeful denunciation, anything- just as long as it stops 
short of physical brutality and so can still be justified as "nonviolence." That, if I may say so, 
marks one very long move away from Dan West-and one regarding which Jacques Ell ul 
(having been there) can tell us what the harvest must be. 

My guess is that it was the Social Gospel movement that tipped us into the faith that the 
world could be saved (or at least vastly improved) through our inspired arky actions of 
revolution and reform. Now our ancient anarchism has become an object of scorn: "Look at 
how much more actual good we have accomplished using arky power rather than shying 
from it!" ... I wonder. 

I wonder.... It certainly proved right for Jesus not to let himself be associated with the just 
and righteous revolution of the tax-withholding Zealots; Rome saw to it that that godly 
effort came to nothing but a great big minus. Yet, of course, that revolution was violent. So 
let me now tell the story of the most successful Christian nonviolent revolution in history- 
involving that same Roman establishment, would you believe? 

You see, once upon a time there was this little anarchist church-in fact, the very one we've 
been talking about-that of Jesus, Paul, and the other New Testament Christians. And it— in 
its rather weak, unorganized, anarchical way (following the pattern its anarchical apostle)- 
went bumbling about the empire, evangelizing handfuls of individuals here and there and 
leaving them in little anarchical house-groups. 

Actually, in comparison to some other churches of other eras, its church-growth statistics 
weren't all that bad. Nevertheless, in time, some strategic planners came along who said, 
"Folks, this anarchical way of going at things is stupid. We'll never get the world won for 
Christ this way. Why, people are being born faster than we're set up to convert them (infant 
baptism not yet having been invented); we'll never catch up. We've got to start thinking big 
and quit being so leery about using a bit of organization and power. We need to operate 
from strength. What we really ought to do is go for the Arky-go for the Big One. God wants 
his church to grow. And just think of how much more good we can accomplish by using arky 
power rather than shying from it!" 

And wouldn't you know, it worked! They went for the emperor and got him-and he brought 
the whole of the Big Arky over with him. Christianity was proclaimed the official religion of 
the Roman Empire-and the world was won for Christ. You know, you have to smile a bit at 
the Old Anarchy, thinking that three thousand in one day was pretty big stuff. I don't know 
just how long it took to get the changeover recorded; but I do know the Vatican computers 
were jammed trying to move names across from the PAGAN column to the CHRISTIAN 
column-until somebody realized it just easier to switch the headings. 



At one fell swoop we now had a whole empireful of Christians; as finally in a position to do 
some real good for humanity and bring in the truly just society. Talk about revolution! The 
church praised God from whom all blessings flow ... and the empire snickered all the way to 
the bank. His empire had found the Lord and become "Christian" without having to make 
any changes at all; Christianity had done all the changing. Indeed, the conversion would 
probably qualify as "forensic justification": all it took was a word from God (or at least his 
official representatives) and we now had "The HOLY Roman Empire." Pretty neat, wouldn't 
you say? 

But just look at what actually happened in this Christian revolutionizing of the empire. The 
church became the Biggest Arky of All, graciously taking unto itself every evil the empire had 
ever represented. It sacrificed all understanding and appreciation of its God-given anarchy 
in its zeal to make the world good and do good for it. It lost the beautiful anarchy of its 
house-churches of human beings to build cathedrals of politicians. (Remember that 
cathedral means throne of a bishop.") It lost the anarchical refusal of military service to 
mount armies bearing the banner of the cross and in this sign conquering. It lost its 
anarchical Jesus whose kingdom was not of this world to paint for itself an icon that needed 
a label before you could tell whether it was a picture of Christ or the Emperor (a sad, sad 
confusion). It lost its "holiness" in bestowing that title upon the empire instead. The trading 
of anarchy for Christian arky was the deflowering of the church. 

So, my great fear about today's Christian revolution, out to transform and save the world for 
God, is not that it might fail but that it might succeed. As for me and my house, give me 
anarchy or give me the last laugh-which may come to the same thing. 



Chapter Two 

IN THIS CORNER 
Arky Faith 

In Chapter One we established the concept of Christian Anarchy. In this chapter we win turn 
to its opposite, what I call "Arky Faith." Arky faith is that enthusiastic human self-confidence 
which is convinced that Christian piety can generate the holy causes, programs, and 
ideologies that will effect the social reformation of society. Differing only as to which 
actually are the holy causes, arky faith characterizes the Christian Right just as much as it 
does the Christian Left. In either case, the true believer has no doubt at all as to which arkys 
are the elect instruments for God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven. 

The dichotomy between Christian Anarchy and arky faith may be as essential in defining 
true Christianity as any rubric ever proposed. Of course, the distinction won't begin to 
correlate with the common theological one of "liberal" and "conservative." None of the 
classic creeds or confessions is of any help in determining which-"anarchy" or "arky faith"— 
is orthodox and which heretical. Our study cuts in at a different level, addressing a new 
issue. The Bible (we have seen and will see) very definitely does speak to the matter, though 
Christian tradition as a whole has largely ignored it. 

The issue at stake has to do with the ways and means of God's work in history-rather than 
predominantly with God's own nature. But arky faith is broad enough to include almost any 
concept of deity; the following list is representative: 

1. As with the Christian Right, arky faith may hold an entirely orthodox view of God, 
positing only that it knows which of the arkys God considers his chosen instruments. 

2. As with many theological liberals of the Christian Left, the of arky faith may be simply 
a mytho-symbolic expression of its Utopian vision, set up to inspire the efforts of its 
adherents. 

3. Arky faith may go beyond Christianity to base itself in the universal religiousness of 
humanity. Now, rather than speaking of a pluralistic "God," the preference is for "the 
spiritual [read cultural] progress of the race"-as that is defined and directed the 
elected arkys, of course. 

4. Arky faith may be expressed in purely secular, humanitarian terms, with no 
transcendent reference at all. 

Obviously, any and all these options qualify under our definition of arky faith, 
although because of our present interest we will treat only those claiming in some 
sense to be "Christian." But the point is that the crux of arky faith lies nearer its 
concept of "the human" than its concept of "God." Granted, the two are never 
completely separable; and Ellul did say of the arkys that "they are constantly 
tempted to take the place of God." That, of course, would be idolatry-though we are 
going to argue more closely that the sin of arky faith lies fundamentally in its 
adherents' seeing their arkys as indubitably mesianic, as being God's anointed agents 



social redemption. The sin, then, is that which Jesus warns again as "chasing after 
false messiahs." 

So, an arky's problem lies more in its self-image than in its image of God. The 
pretentiousness of that self-image has per nowhere been more tellingly exposed 
than in the line Tennyson gives to Sir Galahad: "My strength is as the strength often, 
because my heart is pure." Contrast this to Jesus' statement: "So you also, when you 
have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only 
done what was our duty'" (Luke 17:10). 

There would seem to be no mystery as to why arky faith holds such appeal for us. Given the 
unquestioned certainty that our arkys are right, good, and dedicated to the service of God, 
three great advantages would seem to accrue: 

1. Arky faith greatly simplifies moral decision making. One escapes the ambiguity and 
terrible complexity of dealing with actual individuals who always are very much a 
mixture of good and evil, actual forces and situations that are very much the same 
way. Now one can think in terms of homogenous arky power-blocs that clearly 
classify into either good or bad; moralizing can be done sheerly knee-jerk reflexing. 
So "pacifism" (of whatever character) is good and anything that is not pacifism is 
"evil warmaking." A capitalist U.S. government is bad; a socialist Sandinista 
government is good. "Masculinity" is bad; "femininity" is good. The Moral Majority is 
bad; the National Council of Churches is good. Multinational corporations are bad; 
cottage industries are good. Moral choice becomes wonderfully uncomplicated 
when human affairs are understood simply in terms of a contest between the arkys 
wearing white hats and those wearing black. The trouble, of course, is that this way 
of doing morality bears no relationship to moral reality. 

2. Perfectly confident that our own commitments are to the "good," we cannot see 
why it should be anything other than good that our power for good be "magnified" 
through the collective solidarities of good arkys. Nevertheless, the hard truth is that 
you, at most, are one-one individual-and no matter how pure you know you have 
no right to the strength of ten. That longs to nine other individuals-even if their 
hearts are not nearly as pure as yours. You have no right to lecture at a volume of 
"ten." Those other nine people are to be allowed to speak even if you know that 
what they have to say is hogwash. The rule is "one person, one voice, one vote." And 
it is every bit as wrong for piety to try to steamroller its "justice" into place as for 
perversity its "injustice." 

I am convinced there are many Christians (of both the left and right) who, as 
individuals, are quite modest, humble, and of realistic self-image-but who, then, 
proceed to satisfy their lust for power; of grandeur, and their sense of self- 
righteousness through the holy arkys with which they identify. Asserting their "just 
cause" becomes a psychological disguise for asserting themselves; thus they find 
Christian justification for the sense of power by which all of us are tempted. 

3. Finally, one of the most alluring aspects of arky faith is what we have called "the 
trigger effect" and now call "the David and Goliath effect." Still completely confident 



about the justice of our own cause, we dream about the possibility that, judiciously 
applied to the right spot, the power even of a small pebble from our weak sling will 
bring down the Goliath of Evil. The rock slinger may be a minority of one righteous 
individual, namely me ("God and one make a majority," you know-for those of us 
bold enough to claim that where we are marks the spot where God is). Or the rock 
slinger may be the minority of our own small but holy cause group. Yet our faith (our 
arky faith) is that even a small power play at a key point in the dam can trigger the 
flood in which "justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like an 
everflowing stream." Yet Amos (whose words these are [5:24]) was making a point 
the precise opposite of that of arky faith. It is very wide the mark to consider that 
our "justice" is congruent enough with God's for one to be the trigger of the other. 
No, Amos is saying, "Get out of there with your arky justice, religion, and piety. Your 
holy efforts are blocking God out, not helping him in. So step back and let justice 
(real justice) roll down like waters." 

There is no doubt that the trigger effect does operate on the human scene. And it is 
indeed a sweet dream that we might be able to accomplish "so much good" just 
through our little holy effort. Wouldn't God be delighted with us if we rose up, O 
men, women, and children of God, to trigger the day of brotherhood and end the 
night of wrong? In truth, is it not upon this trigger effect that all revolutionary action 
is premised-so much good, a sweeping reversal from evil to good, through our one 
holy pebble? "One person-namely, you-can make the difference!" 

The hitch, of course, is that he who triggers the flood is going to have to take 
whatever flooding his triggering brings down. Once he has triggered his flood, he has 
no power to dictate its nature even direct its course; "this thing is bigger than both 
of us." And so, what the Maccabeen revolutionaries triggered did accomplish 
religious freedom and the liberation of the temple. But then, out control, the waters 
swept on to devastate the moral character of both the triggerers and their Jewish 
state. There was nothing wrong, either, with the Zealot plan: if they could trigger as 
much as general uprising against the Empire of Evil, then, they were certain, God's 
Messiah would come rolling down with his flood of justice to eliminate the Romans, 
set up Israel as the first of the nations, and introduce the promised Day of the Lord. 
But, sad to say, the flood they actually got was only more, more, and more of Rome. 
Nothing wrong, again, with the plan to convert the emperor and thus revolutionize 
the empire. The plan worked, but the resultant flood went its own way-to the 
detriment of everything Christianity stood for. 

The dream that our "justice" might trigger the rolling waters of God's justice is 
indeed a sweet one-and one we will always enticing. The pause is that any person 
presuming to use his power to trigger floods better also have at hand the power to 
control them-and that person, sad but true, is none of us. 

The history of Christianity traces out rather clearly as a continuing contest to determine 
which arkys, at any given time, are actually holy agents of God. 



As we saw in the previous chapter; Christian arky faith got its start in the absolute conviction 
that the elected arkys of God were two-the Holy Catholic Church and the Holy Roman 
Empire. Any arkys else (be they churches or states; be they pagan, heretical Christian, or 
whatever) were enemies of God to be ruthlessly conquered and exterminated. 

(In the earlier stages of Christian history, all arky power apparently was perceived as being 
institutionalized in either the form of churches or states. Only recently have we come to see 
that there are a whole host of other institutions-education, business, the media, etc. -that 
are just as intent to govern human thought and behavior.) 

The split-up of the empire, with its division of the Western church from the Eastern, did not 
change the character of arky faith. But now, within Christendom, we had two sets of 
Christian arkys-each absolutely certain that it was of God and that the other was of Evil. 
From this point forward (or backward, depending upon God's opinion as to which way his 
church is going), the contest of arky election will take place as much or more within the 
church as between the church and the world. 

The Protestant Reformation (i.e., the Magisterial Reformation, excluding the Anabaptists 
who played no part in this development) again fails to mark any significant change. The 
word magisteral betrays how strongly arky oriented that reformation was. The only thing 
new is that we now have a plethora of Christian church-state combines in actual military 
combat with each other for confirmation of their election by God. Not too nice a picture. 

It is, then, only as we move into denominational pluralism, the advent of secularism, the 
development of democratic government, and a breakup of the unholy union between 
church and state, that we see any significant change in the picture. Yet in no sense is that 
change a move away from arky faith toward Christian Anarchy. It is simply arky faith taking 
on its modern form. 

Ecclesiastical monopoly within a society no longer being an option, each church had to learn 
to tolerate intermixture-even while retaining the secret (or not so secret) conviction that it 
was the elect in a way the others were not. A given state could no longer sport its churchly 
consort as proof of its own divine election. But that was no bar to civil governments claiming 
election on their own merits (like, say, "this nation under God"). 

However, with the new, democratic pluralism now making the ecclesiastical government of 
an entire populace an impossibility, the denominations had to reformulate the nature and 
purpose of their arky power. No longer could it be domination by decree but now by 
propaganda. No longer could it be the power to grant whole populations salvation through 
the holy sacraments or the preaching of the holy word (or else, if they refuse it, damn them 
to hell). Now it had to be the power of institutional programs of evangelization, Christian 
nurture, moral instruction, and social reform that more subtly but just as powerfully get 
God's will done on earth (or else, if people refuse it, let them go to nuclear hell). There is 
here no less confidence than before as to whose arky is appointed of God-and no less 
confidence than before that that arky carries the power that can save the world. 



There is evidence in our day that given denominations are beginning to lose out as being the 
popular choice for "God's anointed." Some Christians see ecumenical councils and agencies 
as being the bigger and better arkys (more powerful and more effective) and so are pegging 
their hope and allegiance there. Some Christians see parachurch organizations and cause 
groups (anything from Youth for Christ to Sojourners) as being the arkys of God's future. 
And some Christians believe that, for our day, different ones of our wholly secular 
movements, causes, and parties represent the most truly elected arkys. What it adds up to 
is that, from Constantine until NOW (that acronymic capitalization is not accidental), church 
arky faith has completely carried the day. 

Regarding the arky of civil government, the picture is no different. Though it is true that the 
Constantinian holy tandem church and state has largely disappeared, that was far from 
marking the end of faith in the divine election of government. Many German Christians, 
obviously, accepted the arky of the Third Reich as being of God. Today, many American 
Christians see the United States of America the same way (or else as that still-elect arky we 
are now in process of re-Christianizing). 

Of course, there are also a great many Christians who laugh at this phenomenon, but that 
does not at all mean they have deserted arky faith. They deride the idea that any 
establishment, rightist governments are elect of God-because they know that election 
already belongs to whatever revolutionary, leftist government talks social justice and 
reform. I say "talks," because, by the time one can get around to an evaluation on the basis 
of performance, the true believer has already committed himself and has no option but to 
defend his choice. Yet, whether of the Right or the Left, the nature of arky faith is the same- 
the difference being only as to which arkys are of God and which of the devil. 

My first inclination was to spot this as a modern development by citing Walter 
Rauschenbusch's at-the-time opinion that the government of the Russian Revolution was 
God's gift to the world as its best model of peace and brotherhood. Then I realized that the 
phenomenon has been with us as good as forever. In a succeeding chapter, we will see how 
devout Jews of the second century B.C. embraced the Maccabean Revolt on the basis of its 
talk about social justice (quality, liberty, brotherhood, and peace) and how their compatriots 
of the first Christian century embraced the Zealot Revolution on the same basis. 

Certainly, on the basis of its sweet talk, many Christians accepted the American Revolution 
as being of God. The French Revolution probably won the same sort of Christian blessing in 
its turn. Malcomb Muggeridge has given us a fine account of how British Christians went ga- 
ga over the Russian Revolution, just as Rauschenbusch did. The Viet-Cong/North Vietnam 
"revolution" had its Christian following. There are still Christians affirming the godliness of 
the Cuban revolution, although people have become rather quiet about the Iranian 
revolution that unseated the Shah. And of course, the current favorite as "Christian arky" is 
the Sandinista revolution in Nicarugua-as on the Right it is that of the Reagan 
administration-each probably just as Christianly wrong as the other. 

It is interesting that Christian proponents of revolutionary arky faith don't paparticularly 
care whether a regime is pro-church or anti-church as long as it talks peace and justice. 
Obviously, some of these revolutions actually have produced more of what they talked 



about than have others. That is not the point. There is no reason even to argue whether 
those Christians are wiser or more stupid who are plumping the divine election of the 
Sandinista revolution than those who plumped the divine election of the Holy Roman 
Empire. It is the same mistake either way. The only question is whether there ever has been 
any human arky-church, state, cause group, or whatever-that has merited recognition as 
God's chosen instrument of human salvation. 

Accordingly, about the entire history we have just traced, true Christian anarchists feel 
nothing but incredulity as to how we got so far off base. Who can say whether that 
sequence marks a progression or a retrogression, when its heading is so far off the gospel in 
any case? And there is no point in bringing accusations of villainy, because obviously there 
were no particular villains involved. "All we, (exactly) like sheep, have gone astray-ay-ay-ay- 
ay-ay." And there is nothing to do about it but weep-or perhaps, better, laugh at the 
ridiculousness of it all ... as a cover-up for our tears. 



Within the foregoing history of Christendom, there are two churches, two Christian 
groupings in particular, that stand out as different. They are the New Testament church and 
the Anabaptists of the Protestant Reformation. I am not arguing that these are the only 
instances of true Christian Anarchy; yet my own interest and study brings them to focus. The 
New Testament already has been and will continue to be at the center of our attention, so it 
seems appropriate, here, to consider the Anabaptists. 

Regarding the Christian Anarchy of that movement, the definitive study would seem to be 
James M. Stayer's Anabaptism and the Sword (Coronado Press, 1976). Stayer never uses the 
term "anarchism" except in the political, "anti-arky" sense; but "Christian Anarchy" probably 
would have served him better than the terminology he does use. On page 1, he points out 
that, in the theological disputations of the sixteenth century, the term "the Sword" (from 
Rom. 13:4) regularly identified "all temporal force." Stayer himself tends to narrow the 
reference to physical violence either by or against the civil state. His Anabaptist sources 
would be a bit more concerned also to keep the established church in the picture. Yet the 
theological issue itself invites us to broaden the term to cover the whole of what we have 
called "impositional pressure"-and so translate "the Sword" as "arky power." 

Stayer sets out to challenge "classic Anabaptist historiography" for its assumptions: (a) that 
Anabaptism, from the outset, consistently represented "Christian Anarchy" (now to use our 
terminology in place of Stayer's); and (b) that the movement as a whole was indeed 
homogenous in its anarchical theology. There is no question that he makes his case; yet, to 
my mind, he fails to recognize how close he also came to proving the "classic interpretation" 
in the process. 

Regarding (a), if "Anabaptism" be identified by the practice of believer baptism, then the 
movement's origin came in 1525. Stayer's research clearly establishes that, no more than 
five years later, out of the loose mix of Anabaptist fellowships, there were a goodly number 
that were self-consciously "anarchist" and who knew themselves to be in general agreement 
with each other (even if differing slightly in their theological rationales). Just as important, it 



is this growing consensus( and no other) that will survive as "the Anabaptist tradition" 
continuing down to the present day. Technically, I suppose, "five years later" is not the same 
as "from the outset"; but in the overall sweep of history, they come to as much as the same 
thing. My guess is that Anabaptism congealed into Christian Anarchy at least as quickly as, 
say, Lutherans or Calvinists congealed into their distinctive theological positions. 

Regarding (b), Stayer shows that, at points in the early history, there were Anabaptist 
factions which held to a revolutionist arky faith rather than to Christian Anarchy. Some of 
these, apparently, were eager to take the sword as God's instrument for overthrowing the 
powers and establishing the kingdom. Others would take it up much more reluctantly, 
hoping that God's revolution could be accomplished more peaceably, by less violent means, 
and with a more limited use of power. 

What Stayer (unknowingly) here has discovered is the economy we already have noted in 
Jesus and Paul and in moderns like Ellul. In a succeeding chapter we will find the pattern 
strongly enforced by Karl Barth. But Christian anarchists-who normally are under the gun, 
or facing the cross, of establishment power-hardly find themselves tempted to legitimize, 
or collaborate with, that establishment. Quite the contrary, they are forever tempted to 
legitimize-and must continually struggle to differentiate themselves from the leftist arkys of 
just revolution. 

Indeed, Christian anarchists do tend to come from the ranks of disillusioned revolutionaries- 
-or those who, were they not anarchists, surely would be revolutionaries. With these 
revolutionists of the Left, Christian anarchists share the passion for justice and 
righteousness which insists that the present order of our human establishment must be 
radically changed. However, the anarchists have no faith at all that the powers of human 
piety and wisdom are in any way competent to effect or control such change. That change 
must come from God. On this point, then, they show affinity with the conservative Right 
where, of course, emphasis upon the sovereignty of God is strong. Yet the anarchists are not 
at home there, either-because they can't buy the conservative thesis that the present order 
of society is the one God wills for us. So, although Christian Anarchy does seem most often 
to he born out of the Left, it cannot be understood as a variety of either liberal or 
conservative Christianity. It is its own thing. And I, for one, would be just as happy to have 
the matter explained thusly: both the Left and the Right are corrupted versions of the 
original Christian Anarchy. Why not? 

However, what Stayer's account shows but never quite says is that any sort of Anabaptist 
"revolutionism" always turns out to be short lived and aberrational. Also, by far the greater 
part of movement within Anabaptism is one-way: revolutionaries and their parties either die 
out or else move into true Christian Anarchy. Stayer finds very few instances of the reverse 
movement of anarchical Anabaptists going revolutionary. Out of the earliest ambiguity, only 
Christian Anarchy survives as the virtually unanimous consensus Anabaptism. 

Now, what Stayer does also show is that, within this mainline anarchist consensus, different 
Anabaptists had somewhat different opinions as to just how much and what sort of political 
involvement was permissible to Christians. Yet, because none of these people come close to 
putting their "faith" in the possibilities of arky accomplishment, they all can be understood 



as falling well within Christian Anarchy. What it comes to, then, is that-in spite of Stayer's 
emphasis on diversity— his study still shows that it is every bit as proper to make generalized 
statements about "Anabaptism and Christian Anarchy" as about "Lutheranism and 
Justification Faith," or any other Christian tradition and its particular doctrine. "Generalized" 
does not have to mean "unanimous." 

Where we use the term "Christian Anarchy," Stayer calls "apoliticism." He divides the 
category into "moderate apoliticism and "radical apoliticism." That distinction is real, of 
course. However, it does not affect the more fundamental theological distinction between 
those who see holy arkys as the means of our social salvation and the anarchists who reject 
the view. At some points (particularly p. 122) Stayer also uses the term "separatist 
nonresistance." "Separatist"-which he defines as "separation from the majority society"- 
seems to be the exact equivalent of his "apolitical" (and will come under our critique of that 
term). "Nonresistance" he defines as "refusal to use physical force"-and needs only to be 
opened out to include the rejection of all forms of impositional arky power. 

Recall, then, that Ell ul objected strenuously to Jesus' anarchism being called "apolitical." It 
all depends, of course, upon what one means by "political." If the term identifies only such 
action as is deliberately calculated to have an express effect in impositionally manipulating 
and directing public affairs to a desired end, then neither Jesus nor Anabaptists were 
political. If, on the other hand, the term identifies whatever actions do in actuality have an 
effect on public affairs, then Jesus and the Anabaptists were as political as can be. So, if 
"apolitical" suggests people isolated and withdrawn from the life of society, or those whose 
actions have no effect upon the world around them, then the term is wrong for the 
Anabaptists. 

Does it make sense to characterize the Anabaptists essentially as "apolitical" in a day when, 
by rights, the term would be just as applicable to over ninety percent of the population who 
were given responsibilities? How can it be right to call the Anabaptists "apolitical" when, at 
perhaps a higher percentage than any other church in history, their names are preserved in 
the political records, the court proceedings of their trials and executions? Granted, they 
didn't go to court in order to practice politics in the customary sense; but they were active 
right out in the midst of the political process, and their action of getting themselves 
executed could not happen without having considerable political consequence. 

Further, there is no doubt that-over against the established concept of state-church, folk- 
church, territorial-church-it was the Anabaptists who introduced into Christendom the 
concept of a believer-, voluntary-, gathered-church. That concept, of course, has since 
carried the day-to the point that the papacy recently made acknowledgment that Italy itself 
is a secular state and not a Catholic one, thus leaving even Roman Catholicism as a gathered 
church there. Now the Anabaptists obviously did not work this sea-change by means of 
impositional pressures toward arky reform. There may be those who would argue that the 
change would have happened even without the Anabaptists. Nevertheless, "apolitical" can't 
be quite the right term for a people in whose wake such changes of the polis do take place. 

Again, it seems that the descendants of the Anabaptists were among the first to understand 
that the calling of the church includes a ministry of material service to the poor and desolate 



of the world. Today, that obligation is as much as universally recognized among the 
churches. In this case, again, there was never any arky effort to sell or impose the idea. Yet 
the polis of Christendom was transformed in any case. Indeed, an examination of their 
respective track records across Christian history might show that "apolitical" anarchists have 
had a more constructive political effect on the world than have the revolutionists who were 
trying to manipulate the political process for good. So if, as customarily used, "apolitical" is 
meant to imply "irrelevant to the real world," it is a poor synonym for Anabaptism's or any 
other form of Christian Anarchy. (Stayer, by the way, now agrees that "apolitical" is the 
wrong word and explains that he simply borrowed it from a Mennonite historian.) 



Aside from its fine presentation of primary sources regarding the position of different 
Anabaptist leaders on "the Sword," Stayer's book is most helpful by including similar 
material regarding different ones of the non-Anabaptist reformers. Thus, he can help us 
clarify the distinctions between Christian Anarchy and differing types of arky faith. In the 
following, therefore, Stayer provides most of the information, although the interpretation 
and application are mine: 

• Martin Luther (Stayer, pp. 33-44): Surprisingly enough, on basis of Luther's published 
position on "the Sword" (and particularly his exposition of Romans 13), Stayer finds 
him to be closer to anarchical Anabaptists than is any other of the Reformers. Luther 
comes off sounding not completely unlike what we already heard from the 
Blumhardts and Ellul and what we will hear from Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

See, these people [the Christians] need no worldly Sword or law. And if the 
whole world were true Christians-genuine believers, I mean-no prince, king, 
lord, Sword, or law would be necessary or useful. (P. 37) 

The temporal authority does not at all belong to the charge of Christ but is an 
external thing, like all other offices and estates. (P. 38) 

Follow the gospel and suffer injustice to yourself and your possessions as 
befits true Christians. (P. 43) 

[Stayer quotes Luther:] Since "the worldly power is a very small thing in the 
eyes of God," it was not worthwhile to undertake active resistance against its 
abuse. "Such an order we must have, but it is not a way to get to heaven and 
the world will not be saved because of it, but it is necessary exactly to keep 
the world from getting worse." (P. 43) 

Dominion and Kingship shall remain to the Last Day, but then all official 
powers will be abolished, both the temporal and the spiritual. (P. 44) 

This, of course, is not the whole picture of Luther on the Sword. It is, however, 
enough to show a truly anarchistic skepticism that anything of God's good can ever 
be expected from human arkys. Consequently, Stayer awards Luther the label 
"moderate apoliticism," as against the "radical apoliticism" of the Anabaptists. But 



what Stayer fails to consider is Luther's praxis along with his theory. Do this once 
and, I contend, Luther is forever removed from consideration as a Christian 
anarchist. Quite the contrary, he takes on an arky faith of specific coloring. 

Luther was of a staunchly conservative turn of mind and so shows up as regularly 
legitimizing the power of establishment arkys. In praxis, he is not "apolitical" in any 
sense of the term. He turns to the "princes" and their Sword to have them gain for 
him legal standing for his Protestant church and protect it from its enemies (clearly a 
case of using worldly arky to forward what he is convinced the world is God's work in 
the world). Although he knows very well that anarchical ekklesia represents the truly 
Christian form of the church (admitting this in so many words in his The German 
Mass and Order of Worship), for prudential reasons he opts to retain the structures 
of state-church arky. He preaches the priesthood of all believers but practices a 
hard-and-fast arky-power distinction between clergy and laity. He fears anything that 
smells of revolution and so blesses the princes in their brutal putting down of 
peasant revolutionaries-and the Anabaptist "fanatics" whom he perceives as being 
of the same spirit. Luther clearly does believe that conservative, establishment arkys 
actually do play a vital role in God's plan for humanity. 

There is an entirely true and praiseworthy concern behind this faith of Luther's. He 
cares about what happens to people. For instance, in that German Mass passage, he 
rejects the New Testament concept of a gathered ekklesia explicitly because he 
realizes that only a few people ever would choose to join such groups and, in effect, 
this would be to leave the masses outside the salvation of the church. For Luther; the 
stability of a poweful established order was the only thing holding human sin in 
check and thus making possible a liveable society. Whether he was right or wrong in 
this, his conservative, legitimizing arky faith is credible and deserving of all respect. 

Thomas Miintzer (Stayer, pp. 73-90): Muntzer's is an arky faith the polar opposite of 
Luther's. He is the sixteenth-century representative of today's "theology of 
liberation." For him, revolution against establishment arky in behalf of the poor and 
oppressed is God's Sword manifesting itself in history. It is true that the Peasants 
War supported by Muntzer came to the same sorry end as the pre-Jesus Maccabean 
Revolt and the post-Jesus Zealot Revolt. Yet it is indubitable that all three of these 
were totally "just" revolutions, turning to violence only because there was no other 
alternative. Muntzer was every bit as sincere and religious as Luther-and had just as 
credible an argument for his position. 

Desiderius Erasmus (Stayer, pp. 52-56): Erasmus had considerable influence on 
Ulrich Zwingli (our next case), but his thought is different enough to constitute a 
separate category. Erasmus can be understood as the first proponent of twentieth- 
century America's Social Gospel. Although it is not immediately apparent as such, his 
is another form of revolutionary arky faith (not entirely unlike Muntzer's). What 
Erasmus advocated was a "nonviolent, pacifist revolution." Consequently, the arky 
upon which his faith centered was what might be called Jesus-Piety. Jesus was to be 
followed as the perfect teacher and exemplar of the way of love. And Erasmus's 
faith, then, was the conviction that the arky of such pacifistic humanism is God's 
chosen vehicle for making the world right. 



To the present day, it is undoubtedly this form of arky faith that is most tempting to 
the Christian Left and most easily confused with Christian Anarchy. Yet the 
difference between them is as fundamental as this: Christian Anarchy is based on the 
conviction that no human arky can serve God's ultimate will for humanity, that only 
God's own not-of-this-world arky will do. Erasmianism, on the contrary, places its 
ultimate faith in the conviction that, for the bringing in of his kingdom, God has 
committed himself to the political arky-power of human pacifistic piety. However, 
even with that distinction, there is no question about the sincerity and truly Christian 
dedication of an Erasmus. 

Ulrich Zwingli (Stayer, pp.49-69): Zwingli is the reformer with whom the Anabaptists 
had the most direct contact and within whose Zurich church Anabaptism originated. 
He is the Reinhold Niebuhr to Erasmus's Social-Gospel liberalism. Appropriately, 
then, Stayer titles his Zwingli chapter, "From Erasmian Pacifism to Christian 
Realpolitik." Zwingli's, too, is a faith in the arky of Christian piety; but he believes 
Erasmus's ideas to be too naive and simplistic to succeed within the hard realities of 
a sinful world. So, Zwingli is still the somewhat Erasmian vision of Christian piety 
gradually revolutionizing the world for good. Yet he knows this will take the 
combined arky efforts of his Zurich established church and the Zurich city council- 
and that with some well-directed political clout. He hopes he can keep the process 
peaceful but is prepared to go beyond peaceful means where that proves necessary. 
He is not a Muntzer who welcomes the Sword as the instrument of God's justice-yet 
neither is he an Erasmus who renounces it in the conviction that human livingness is 
capable of winning its own way. Zwingli is realistic enough to know that his goal is 
not the bringing in of the kingdom but only the Christianizing of Zurich. So, as with 
the others, there is no doubt about the credibility and authentic Christian conviction 
of Zwingli's pragmatic arky faith. 

Of the four we have presented, Luther's vision is obviously the most pessimistic- 
although, perhaps by the same token, also the most realistic. His legitimized 
establishment has held society together (sort of), which is as much as he ever hoped 
from it. Zwingli's is the most opt/'m/'st/'c/reo//'st/'c-although I don't know that Zurich 
has ever had a viable claim to being a "Christian" city. The visions of Muntzer and 
Erasmus, though apparently poles apart, are equally idealistic-each counting not so 
much upon the amassing of real power as upon the David-and-Goliath "triggering" 
effect and the purity of heart that magnifies strength tenfold. 

Each of the four positions has a valid rationale. It could be debated as to which 
scheme is the most workable. I don't believe it is possible to determine which is the 
most "Christian"-any of the four having difficulty developing a biblical basis. Yet, in 
spite of all their obvious differences, the four do have in common the conviction that 
there is a human arky (better: a particular type of arky) which is "holy," which God 
has elected as the means through which his will shall be done on earth (and for 
earth) as it is in is in heaven. 

Anabaptism: Not particularly in its being "apolitical" but in its being "anarchical" 
(i.e., lacking the faith that any human arky has a select role to play in God's plan of 



salvation), Anabaptism is radically distinguished from any and all of the visions 
above. It stands outside the spectrum of arky faith. 

A more recent work of Stayer's throws further light on the matter. The title of his 
article, "The Revolutionary Origins of the'Peace Churches'" (Brethren Life & Thought, 
Spring 1985), could just as accurately have read, "The >4nt/-Revolutionary Origins...." 
For the thesis he so convincingly argues is that both sixteenth-century Anabaptism 
and seventeenth-century Quakerism represent the Christian, theological rebound 
following a gross failure of justice in a political revolution that had been seen as 
holding great promise. These "rebounders," then, wind up in a quite anti- 
revolutionary stance of anarchism and nonresistance, i.e., in what Stayer, from the 
1527 Schleitheim Confession, typifies as "shunning all established churches and all 
governments [which is to say, the powers of both Right and Left, Establishment and 
Revolution]-all their worship services and their 'diabolical weapons of violence.'" 

The completely proper and biblical conclusion drawn by these people was this: It has 
become apparent that no program of human power politics can be the method of 
social justice-in that sinful humanity is simply incapable of exercising impositional 
power without being corrupted by it. Therefore, we must look away from the powers 
of this world and turn to God as the one true source and hope of justice. With the 
Anabaptists, of course, the revolutionary disillusionment was that of the Peasants' 
War in Germany. With the Quakers, it was the Puritan Revolution. But I think Stayer 
is onto a pattern that shows up all over the place. 

I don't know that there was involved a party that could be called "revolutionary," but 
the justice-barren futility of the Thirty Years' War certainly was sufficient to trigger 
the rebound of German Pietism and the anarchical shunning of the powers by its 
radical wing (from which came the Church of the Brethren). The original Christian 
Anarchy of the New Testament perhaps ought not be called a "rebound," as though 
triggered by the collapse of the Zealot liberation effort against Rome; that anarchism 
was in the works even before it became evident that the Zealot revolt was a disaster. 
Yet the biblical evidence is clear that Christian Anarchy developed precisely as the 
positive theological alternative (a different option) standing counter to negative 
Zealot revolutionism. 

In so many words, Jacques Ellul tells us that it was the profound disillusionment of 
his own revolutionary involvements that turned him to the biblical position of 
Christian Anarchy. In Karl Barth's case, the term "revolution" is perhaps not as 
appropriate; nevertheless, with the onset of World War I, it was the "collapse by 
capitulation" of the peace-and-justice forces of Neo-Protestant theology and 
religious socialism that "rebounded" him out of his faith in the politics of human 
piety and into his powers-shunning hope of the kingdom of God. It might be said that 
Christian Anarchy exists to no other purpose than to rebound people toward God's 
justice once their hope has been shattered by the discovery of how treacherous and 
untrustworthy is any attempt at imposing our human justice upon the world. 



However, in response to this analysis, Stayer still finds it important to stress that, 
nonetheless, all these Christian anarchists had been or were very close to being 
revolutionists; there is considerable affinity. Of course he is right; I have been as 
ready to grant the point as he is to make it. Yet that point has the precise effect of 
strengthening-rather than weakening-the conclusion that will perhaps best be 
drawn by Karl Barth in a chapter ahead of us. 

In Romans 13, Barth finds the apostle Paul refusing to give divine legitimization to 
either the Roman establishment or the Zealot revolution against that establishment. 
Paul will not allow the gospel identified with either the Right or the Left-yet he 
comes down much harder against leftist revolution than he does against rightest 
establishment. Why? 

The revolutionary Titan is far more godless, far more dangerous, than his 
reactionary counterpart-because he is so much nearer the truth. To us, the 
reactionary [my emphasis-VE] presents little danger; with his Red brother 
[the then-current Bolshevik Revolution, of course] it is far otherwise.... Far 
more than the conservative, the revolutionary is "overcome of evil," because 
with his "No" he stands so strangely near to God. 

Amen. It is precisely the undeniable "political" resemblance (the commitment to 
peace, justice, freedom, and human welfare) between leftist revolutionism and true 
Christian Anarchy that makes it so very crucial for us to spot the radical "theological" 
opposition between the two. Christian anarchists are not secret revolutionists, quasi- 
revolutionists, incipient revolutionists, or even toned-down, quietist comrades of the 
revolutionists; at the very least, they are disillusioned revolutionists who have made 
a theological, quantum jump rebound out of revolutionism. 

Yet goodness knows, in our time, we have seen enough of revolutionary hopes- 
beginning, if you wish, with the Russian Revolution and running up through the 
Cuban and Nicaraguan ones (including such social and nonviolent examples as the 
Student Free Speech Movement and the Sexual Revolution)-to rebound the entire 
church of Jesus Christ into Christian Anarchy. Thus, what gives me such great 
concern is, in that situation, to find the leadership of my own Anabaptist-Brethren- 
Mennonite tradition moving in an exactly perverse direction: out of its time-tested 
anarchism and into today's dead-end revolutionism. Therefore, I hereby dedicate 
this book to hastening the inevitable revolutionary disillusionment that might bring 
these people back to the Christian Anarchy to which they belong. 

The New Testament church and the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century display five basic 
characteristics in common and in contrast to all forms of arky faith: 

a. Neither gives a hint of wanting to legitimize any of the powers that be. Those all exist 
by God's sufferance; none can boast of his blessing. 

b. Neither shows any inclination to fight the arkys (even those perceived as most 
wicked) nor to compete with them (whether physically or verbally). There is no felt 



need to be knocking heads with them or trying to get power over them. It is not in 
any such contest that the future of the race is being decided. 

c. Neither shows any interest in making something of itself in the eyes of the world- 
getting its power consolidated, finding organizational structures that will make it 
most effective and influential. Both are content to be quite weak and, shall we say, 
anarchistic. 

d. Neither makes any big claims (or even small promises) about what it intends to do in 
the way of governing, saving, correcting, or even improving a lost and wrong world. 
Neither makes the sound of a candidate for office. 

e. Most of all, both show complete confidence that God can and will accomplish 
whatever he has in mind for his world, with or without their help. At his pleasure, 
God can use either arkys or anarchys, arkyists or anarchists. But he needs neither 
and, most definitely, licenses none. 

I had it in mind now to use the book of Revelation as depiction of the early church's 
understanding of Christian Anarchy and a means of documenting the five points just made. 
Yet surely many people would think this hook so revealing of arky battle to be the very last 
place one would expect to find any hint of anarchism. So perhaps the best way of making 
this transition is to meet the problem head-on, by addressing the comparison between 
Romans 13 and Revelation 13 that is found with some regularity in the literature of the 
Christian Left. 

That comparison most often is done to establish the contextualist nature of the Christian 
relationship to the state: when a state is behaving well, then Christians should respect, 
obey, and honor it; when it is nasty, then Christians are obligated to denounce, resist, and 
try to revolutionize it. The Christian response to government all depends upon how the 
government of the moment is comporting itself. 

From this point of view, Romans 13 is read as quite legitimizing. The explanation is that, at 
the time of Paul's writing, the Roman Empire was in one of its more benevolent phases, 
making it natural for him to tell Roman Christians that they should obey the authorities, pay 
their taxes, and all. Revelation 13, then, is seen to be the opposite case. There the empire is 
portrayed as the Beast from the Abyss-which is taken to indicate that, at the time of the 
revelator's writing, the empire's behavior was quite different from what it had been in Paul's 
day. I will leave it for the reader to guess whether it is a Romans-13 or a Revelantion-13 
phase these interpreters presently find the U.S. Government to be in. 

Yet truth to tell, the evidence won't begin to support this interpretation at either end of the 
comparison. First, the Romans-13 end: (1) We have already found Jacques Ellul— and in 
succeeding chapters will find both Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer-strongly denying that 
Paul here either expresses or implies any sort of legitimizing, any sort of approval, any 
recognition of merit on the part of the secular state. (2) All three agree-Bonhoeffer the 
most emphatically-that the relative goodness or badness of the state is absolutely no factor 
in Paul's argument. (3) For my own part (as will be developed more fully later) it is incredible 
that Paul ever could have looked upon the Roman Empire as "benevolent." There is nothing 
in his Jewish background, his personal history; or the political situation of his time that 
would hint at his intending Romans 13 so. 



Moving, then, to the Revelation-13 end of the comparison will also have the effect of getting 
us into the book we want to talk about. First, there is no evidence that the Beast described 
in Revelation 13 is to be identified as the Roman Empire. Clearly, the Revelator is here in 
process of introducing the three members of the Evil Trinity that are the negative spiritual 
counterparts of the three of the Holy Trinity. The Beast, then, is Anti-Christ, the negative of 
God the Son. John's imagery throughout the book rather easily sorts out into that 
representing spiritual, heavenly entities and that representing earthly reality; With his dual 
trinitys he is plainly on the spiritual level-and it is to make John break all his own rules to try 
to equate this Beast with the historical, earthly actuality of Rome. 

Scholars who presume to read Revelation essentially as an anti-Roman tract are making an 
assumption they do not have textural evidence to support. As just suggested, the greater 
part of John's imagery has reference to spiritual powers that have no inherent correlation 
with earthly entities at all. In the first three chapters of book, where the author is speaking 
directly of historical situations and events, Rome gets neither named nor implied. John's 
churches are troubled primarily by heresies from within. A couple are being persecuted 
from without-but Jews (not Romans) are designated the persecutors. John tells us that, in 
Pergamum, "where Satan's throne is" (much more likely a reference to pagan shrines than 
Roman political authority), a Christian named Antipas had been killed— yet without any hint 
that Rome was responsible. Regarding his own situation, John states it in the passive: "I was 
on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" 
(1:9). Now if this author was intent upon writing an anti-Roman tract-and if; as is usually 
conjectured, Patmos was a Roman penal colony where presumably the Roman authorities 
had sentenced John to hard labor-then he sure doesn't know much about writing anti- 
Roman tracts, deliberately wording his way around first-rate opportunities for pointing the 
finger. 

The one place where Rome stands a chance of figuring directly into the book of Revelation is 
in the passage (Chapters 17-18) built upon the woman/city imagery of the great whore, 
Babylon. My own opinion is that John, here as always, is speaking in quite general terms and 
meaning the woman/city as representative of "worldliness" (of whatever time or place), as 
the sum of all human arkydom, if you will. Yet my guess is that, if you were to have asked 
John what present entity best exemplified what he had in mind, he, without hesitation, 
would have pointed to Rome. Nevertheless, the book itself is a high-level theological 
discourse and anything but a time bound political harangue against Rome. 

However; the real argument against the contextualist Romans 13/Revelation 13 comparison 
is that-have him call Rome whatever names you will— the Revelator simply does not go on 
suggest that Christians should therefore resist, withhold their taxes or do anything else in 
opposition to this monster. There is nothing of that sort in the book anywhere. Actually, 
John's counsel as to what Christians should do in their situation takes two parts. Firstly, (and 
repeatedly), they are asked to bear patiently whatever injustice and suffering comes upon 
them by keeping faithful to Jesus. There is certainly no hint of revolution there. 

Secondly, in the midst of the fall of the Babylon-whore, there comes the counsel, "Come out 
of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins" (18:4). My understanding, based upon 
John's ways of thinking throughout the book, is that this is not a historical-point-in-time 



command regarding some group's making a geographical move. It is, rather, God's everyday 
command to every one of his people: "Today, come out from the arkys; separate yourself 
(spiritually and psychologically) lest you get yourself entangled and go down with them. 
Their fall takes place every day (which is not to deny that there will also be a final fall of the 
final day), and your coming-out must also take place every day." 

Turn that one any way you will and, again, it can't be made to spell anything like 
"revolution." In fact, what those two counsels do add up to is Christian Anarchy: "Be entirely 
unarkycal by continuing coming out from the arkys-and the only way to keep yourself clear 
is by sticking close, remaining ever faithful, to Jesus." 

What it comes to is that the texts themselves simply can't be made to produce any sort of 
tension or disagreement between Romans and Revelation. There is no evidence that Paul 
felt good and John felt bad about the empire. Let John speak of the empire as he will; the 
evidence is that Paul would be the first to agree. Paul says that Christians should pay their 
taxes, but John certainly never suggests that they should withhold them. Paul discourages 
revolution, but John certainly never encourages it. Paul says, "Christian Anarchy is where it's 
at," and John says, "Amen, brother!" 

So, back to Revelation and its big picture of Christian Anarchy. Therein, Babylon-the 
symbolic total of arkydom-false time and again. That is, presumably it falls once (one 
continuous fall that has caught up every arky thus far), but that one fall is announced or 
described two or three times. (See both the passages [14:8; 17:1-18:24] and an 
interpretation of them in my volume The Most Revealing Book of the Bible [Eerdmans], pp. 
123-40, 153-71.) Yet this Babylonian arky falls in a very anarchical way: it is never attacked 
by anyone or by any force-not even by the arky of God, let alone the arky of the church or 
that of any holy revolution. It simply collapses under the weight of its own evil-just as 
Christian Anarchy would suggest it should. 

Then the Revelator wants to portray Jesus' final victory over all evil-God's arky over Satan's 
arky, as it were. He hasn't much choice except to use arky battle imagery, but he manages 
to do it without involving any actual arky contest at all. In his first go at it (16:12-17 on pp. 
149-52), the arkys of evil are mustered at Armageddon, ready to take on the Lord God 
himself. Yet without any godly arkys so much as taking the field, the bullhorn from the 
squad car announces, "OK, boys! It's over!" And it is. Again, the day carried anarchically. 
God's arky is not of this world-which means he can take out evil without the help of worldly 
arkys or without even using his own arky in a worldly way. And the reason the Revelator 
won't portray Jesus as going into battle at this point is that he knows Jesus has already won 
it all at Calvary; the most anarchic battle of all. 

In his second go at the scene (19:11-20:3 on pp. 173-79), the Revelator presents Jesus as the 
Warrior King on a white horse (arky imagery, for sure). His forces take the field. The arkys of 
evil come on to face him-and promptly are taken prisoner and fed to the vultures without 
any battle being recounted at all. Apparently, the arkys of the world recognize that the 
Warrior King's bloody garments identify him as the Lamb who, in letting himself be bloodied 
at Calvary, had, once and for all, whipped them on the spot. And with that, all the fight 
immediately goes out of them. Consistently, John shows God's victory for the world as 



taking place without any assistance from our holy human arky efforts. And if God does not 
want or need such, we can afford to be the little anarchists he has called us to be. 

Once more, in his finale, the Revelator as much as bends over backward to dispute the 
prophet Ezekiel. "I've been there since you were," he says, "and I saw NO temple in the New 
Jerusalem" (21:22 on p. 199). And why so great a "no"? Because John knows that temples 
and the whole apparatus of institutional religion are human arkys claiming to be able to put 
worshipers in touch with God. Now, in John's picture, the whole of the New Jerusalem is the 
church; so he is not equating "church" (gathered people) with "temple" of arky apparatus. 
We are the ones so confused as to think that you can't have one without the other. Yet, 
where God himself is present, who needs it? He can be his own temple; human arkys are 
the last thing wanted. 

So the book of Revelation knows all about the principalities and powers of arkydom-yet it 
knows nothing of the common faith alignment that divides human arkys into two categories 
(the "good" ones sponsored by God and the "bad" ones by Satan) which are then pitted 
against each other in determining humanity's future. No, in Revelation, all human arkys are 
of a kind (showing only very relative moral distinction); it is this totality of human arkydom 
the Arky of God finally will overcome by ways and means of his own loving and redemptive 
discipline. 

Humanity's blessed end is to be a total anarchy-the escape from damned arky rather than 
the victory of any portion of it. Arkys have no ultimate significance or even lasting function. 
And, the New Testament tells us, if our final end is Christian Anarchy, it can't be wrong to 
start exercising and enjoying a bit of it now-by ever and always "coming out of her; my 
people!" 



Chapter Three 

CHURCHLYARKYDOM 
It's Unreal 

Would it be correct to say that, given his status as Creator and Lord, God's definition of 
reality (of what is real and what is unreal) is truer than ours? Could we say, even, that it is 
not for us to decide whether God is for real but for him to decide whether we are? 

Therefore, having discovered that God is Primal Anarchist, the first and best around, it 
should come as no surprise that his is a most anarchical view of the human scene, one not at 
all inclined to deal with humanity in terms of its arky structures. Regarding this human race 
of ours, we can be certain he sees its essential reality as residing in the existence of the 
individual human individuals who are every bit as real as the individual sparrows he 
watches, the very hairs of whose heads (the humans, of course, not the sparrows) are 
numbered. That "he careth for [each and every] one of you" (1 Pet. 5:7) is indisputable. That 
he careth a hoot about-or even recognizeth the reality of-any arky arrangement superior 
to individual existence is never said. 

We will proceed, now, to speak only of the arkys of churchliness, although the argument 
could apply to any and all secular arkys as well. However, right off the bat it must be insisted 
that what we are calling God's concept of "individualistic reality" does in no way deny or 
even threaten the social concept of "church"-as long as "church" be properly defined. 

When it is the church with which we are dealing, there is a complicating factor that can 
always confuse our analysis. I mean to focus on the two major components of the church 
that come "from below" to constitute its "human" side. The first of these is the ekklesia, the 
"gathering" of the individual saints (better: the sainted individuals) into community. The 
second is all the institutional, cultic arky structure of house of worship, priesthood, ritual, 
organization, polity, and what all. 

What dare not be overlooked is that, being the church of God, it also involves a third, 
transcendent, "from above" component that takes priority over the other two. However, for 
us now to try to track down, identify, and define this "divine" component and then detail 
how it relates to and operates within the human two-such an investigation would lead us 
far from our intended track and undoubtedly bog us down in complete disagreement. So, in 
the effort simply to set that issue to one side rather than even try to settle it, let us, without 
prejudice, call that third component "the Holy Spirit in our midst" and move on to our 
analysis of the human side of the church. 

My personal (and I think "biblical") opinion is that this Holy Spirit component relates much 
more directly to the human ekklesia component than to the human arky-structure 
component. Whether this be true or not, our one crucial consideration here is to realize that 
the extraordinary, transcendent quality lent to the church by virtue of its divine component 
is in no way the same phenomenon as the human extraordinary, self-transcending 
appearance lent by forming the constituency into ideological power blocs to be manipulated 



to good effect by "corporate heads." The discussion to follow ignores the divine side of the 
church, not to deny it, but simply to keep us concentrated on the human phenomena. 

As long as the church is defined as ekklesia, i.e., the assembly of the (individual) saints, there 
is no problem. Here there is not only room for, but even the need for, whatever one cares to 
posit in the way of fellowship, koinonia, gemeinschaft, bodyhood, community. The only 
thing these ideas add to "individualistic reality" is "togetherness." And "togetherness" is not 
a new category, nothing that is transcendent or standing superior to individual existence. It 
is, instead, a natural form, a function of individual existence. There is no such thing as 
"community" except when individuals (as individuals) are doing it. As ekklesia (and nothing 
more than ekklesia), "church" is still a totally anarchic concept; no hint of arkydom involved. 

Where the line is crossed into arkydom is the point at which it is assumed that a grouping of 
individuals can be given the quantitative value of their sum and then treated as a collective 
solidarity represented by a corporate head. 

From our Western culture we have inherited one of the profound nuggets of human 
wisdom, namely, that "you can't add apples and oranges" (although I don't know what 
either apples or oranges ever did to get stuck with the particular onus of being unaddable). 
Actually, of course, apples can be added (on the one pile) and oranges added (on the other); 
the two can even be added together (as long as what one counts is "fruit"). No, it is only 
with God's hair-numbered humans that we run into true unaddability. But the one 
mathematical count God will not "countenance" is to add up, say, fifty-three human ones 
("l"s) and get a sum, a new number of, say, "53 and upwards," which is itself larger and 
more powerful than any of the constituent "l"s or all of them put together. The fact is that 
God has created human beings to be unaddable: "you can't add individuals and individuals." 
Any "I" in there (even the tiniest) is itself infinitely larger than the "53" that purports to be 
their sum. To glom people into a collective (and "glom" is a perfectly good word contributed 
by Walt Kelly's Pogo and based upon the very widespread Indo-European root meaning "to 
mash together into a "ball," as in "conglomeration") but to glom people into a collective 
never works, as the arkys suppose, to human magnification- always to human degradation. 

Yet the invariable method of arky power is to glom such human collectives into being and 
then to anoint special individuals who presume to represent that body, speak for it, act in 
behalf of it, stand in place of it. Of course, God himself can work like this-as he did in Jesus 
Christ. Yet this is to slip over into the entirely different sphere of "the third component." The 
question is whether he has given permission for us to do anything of this sort for ourselves. I 
wouldn't even deny that humanity has worked itself into a place where it can't operate in 
any other way. Yet the question remains as to whether God himself ever wills or blesses the 
maneuver. 

Thus, within the Judaic tradition of the Bible, we find the two concepts of "church" standing 
side by side. The temple signifies the arky, "churchly" one and the synagogue the anarchic, 
"ekklesial" one. The temple cult, of course, was based entirely upon the arky premise that 
there are special, anointed agents (priests) who are capable of representing all Israel before 
God-and that in total disregard of the actual faith-status of any given Israelite and complete 
ignorance even of what percentage of individual Israelites might at the moment be believing 



or unbelieving. Such a priest was more than an individual in that he could "represent" the 
"summated being" of the corporation before God. And he could perform, in behalf of other 
(lay) individuals, actions of cultic effectiveness before God-actions that no lay individual 
was capable of performing for himself. 

Israel, in such case, obviously is not being considered as an ekklesia, a community of 
individual existences, but as some sort of arky entity which can be represented to God as a 
collective solidarity and responded to by God en masse. There is now no reason God even 
needs an individual hair-count. For his convenience, we gotten ourselves organized so that 
his salvation can proceed through arky transaction rather than on any person-by-person 
basis. My question is whether God had any part in that scheme, whether he ever recognizes 
any reality other than that of individuals-be they sparrows or otherwise. 

With the synagogue, these arky presuppositions are not so. A synagogue is nothing more 
nor less than the place of the ekklesia, the gathering of the faithful. It is the place where- 
although they do it together (and I would never minimize the significance of that)— it is still 
each individual doing his own studying and hearing of the word, his own praying, his own 
worshiping, his own relating to God, his own performing as a member of the body. The rabbi 
is a teacher and in no sense a priest. He is only one member of the congregation and can no 
more represent or speak for it than any other one member can. No "official," arky privilege 
before God claimed or wanted. 

Clearly, the course of God's way with Israel-beginning with the prophets-was away from 
temple arky and toward the anarchic reality of the synagogue. In its turn, Christianity 
started out as a completely anarchic ekklesia and then drifted into churchly arkydom. 

The treatment above might suggest that the issue is one of "sacramentalism" and the 
sacerdotal powers of a priesthood. Surely, those are involved, but the question is much 
broader and more profound. It can be put as simply as this: Who is entitled to speak for 
whom-and by what authority? 

I guess paterfamilias is as much of arky status as I have any claim to. Well, then, does being 
paterfamilias mean that I can "speak for" the family? Don't you believe it! The very idea is 
an impossible one. It implies that, somehow, above and beyond and independence of the 
various minds of the individual members, the family has a common mind to which I, as pater 
familias, have access and thus am empowered to speak "for the family." No way. I can speak 
"for the family" only to the extent that every member gives me both permission to speak for 
him and the voluntary assent that what I say is indeed an expression of his individual mind 
as well. If so much as one family member as lowly as Cricket the Cat thinks differently (and 
when he thinks at all, you can know it will be differently), even thought I am paterfamilias, I 
am still hung up in speaking "for the family" without impermissibly overriding his sacred 
individuality. 

The family has no common mind, no higher mind, no singular mind transcending the plural 
and various minds of its individual members. If there is no single mind, there certainly is no 
arky figure who can claim to represent the family as a whole in speaking it. No arky entity 



ever takes precedence over individual existence; no one can speak for another except at the 
other's permission and instruction. 

I haven't any doubt that God recognizes "families" as "individuals in configured relationship 
with each other." I deny that he grants reality to any idea of "family" which, without 
reference to the independent mind of each and every constituent member, posits the sort 
of solidarity that would even make it possible for one special individual to "represent" or 
"speak for" the whole. Thus, it is precisely "the great realities of our day" (according to arky 
faith) which turn out to have no real existence in the eyes of our anarchist Father who art in 
heaven. 

We will turn now to specific examples documenting how completely churchly arkydom 
operates in terms of these abstractions. The easiest and most obvious example would be 
Roman Catholicism, with its hierarchical polity culminating in one extra-special individual 
who is presumed to have the power, before God, to represent (stand in place of) and speak 
for hundreds of millions of actual individuals-and with its sacramental system in which a 
quite special person, before God, can gain access to grace for a multitude in a way no other 
member of the group can. The trouble, of course, is that such an example would let 
Protestants off the hook with a blithe, "But our church isn't that way." So I am choosing, 
rather, to take our examples from the World Council of Churches and its recent assembly at 
Vancouver, British Columbia. 

We shall give attention to one of the "biggies" from that event. The German theologian, 
Dorothee Solle, addressed a plenary session. That much is the truth of what took place, but 
the significance, the power which the churchly arky (with the aid of the media arky) 
immediately pumped in was to make it read, "WOMAN Addresses World Council of 
CHURCHES." 

My opinion is that the anarchist God-who recognizes no human reality beyond that of 
individuals-is fully aware that one human individual named Dorothee Solle addressed a 
gathering of so many other human individuals named Variously. He could even give you an 
as-of-that-moment hair-count for each. But I also am of the opinion that as soon as the 
situation was projected into terms of abstract entities, God would say we had traded human 
reality for arky unreality. 

Solle can't represent "woman," "women," or "women in general," because there isn't any 
such entity. There are in the world only scads of female individuals-with as many minds as 
there are females. Certainly, there is no one idea upon which the total group would agree- 
not even (or perhaps least of all) that women are systematically misused by men. There is 
absolutely no collective solidarity that even would make it possible for Solle (or any woman, 
or any group of women) ever to "represent" or "speak for" an entity that doesn't exist. Solle 
(or anyone else) can represent only as many individuals as have asked her to represent 
them and have given their personal approval to what she shall say. 

Yes, I know I am talking about what is called "a symbolic event." What I am questioning is 
whether there exists any reality corresponding to the symbol-and recall what Tillich 



insisted, that a symbol must "participate in" as well as "signify" the reality for which it 
stands. So, for a symbol to work, there has to be some reality around somewhere in the mix. 

Can God be anything but unhappy, then, after he created people for human individuality, to 
have their individuality overridden in the interests of glomming them into collective 
solidarities for purposes of arky power? So, just as "woman" was not present at Vancouver 
in the person of Dorothee Solle, neither were any "churches" present in the persona of 
dignitaries, officers, or delegates. To suggest that, in God's eyes, something significant 
regarding "women in the church" took place at Vancouver is to take arky abstraction for 
human reality. 

God, of course, knows which actual women, of which actual hair-count, are playing which 
actual roles in actual churches. He also knows in which cases the woman's presence is 
contributive to the life of the church and in which destructive. And it is only in relation to 
this reality that talk, opinion, and evaluation of "women in the church" has any truth value 
at all. On the level of abstract ideality and symbolic representation, where one can identity 
reality of neither "women" nor "church," how can it even be said whether the idea of 
"women in the church" is good, bad, or indifferent? And yet arkydom regularly prefers to 
operate with what it takes to be the magnified powers of abstract collectives and their 
representative persona. 

God, of course, also knows which actual women are actually being misused by which actual 
men. He also knows in which cases the actual woman is by no means an innocent party but 
is doing her full share of misusing others. It is only on this real level that real behavioral 
changes can effect progress toward real justice. Consequently, it is difficult to imagine what 
is gained by approaching the problem at the level of arky abstraction, with such propositions 
as "Women are systematically oppressed by men." What truth value can the statement have 
if such collective solidarities as "women" and "men" don't even exist? What relevance do 
such slogans have for, or what help do they afford to, the actual situation in which male 
individuals and female individuals must relate to each other? Clearly, such a slogan is even 
of negative value if it be read backwards as a description of reality-thus, for example, 
inviting an actual woman to decide she is being misused, simply on the basis that she is a 
member of that female collective which systematically is misused by the male collective. 
Just that detached from reality can arky abstraction become. The power of such slogans lie, 
not in their truth value, but solely in the fact that they sound big, sweeping, profound, and 
important. 

With Solle at Vancouver, then, my guess is that God was listening and interested at an 
entirely different point from what the churchly audience and media magnifiers were. I 
doubt whether he even caught the symbolic significance of "women in the church" (since, in 
any case, he already knows what is the actual status of each woman in church). No, given his 
overweening concern about what is going on with individuals, it seems likely that his main 
interest would have been: "What is the state of Solle's personal relationship with me? Is the 
specific content of her profession of faith consonant with the membership standard of the 
WCC she is addressing?" 



That standard reads: "[We] confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the 
Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together [our] common calling to the glory of the one 
God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." And the question regarding Solle's own theology is a 
legitimate one, because her writings would indicate that, for her, "God" is that mythic ideal 
which the race, through its religious creativity, continually is developing in the interests of 
its own moral and cultural advancement-surely, something quite different from what the 
WCC statement has in mind. If, then, we are to read Solle at Vancouver on the arky level of 
symbolic event, what are we to make of it? If Solle is representative of women in the 
church, is her theology also representative of the theology of women in the church? 

Be clear; I am not at all suggesting that the WCC should have made Solle's faith an arky 
concern, with committee investigations, heresy trials, excommunications, and what all. I 
mean only to suggest that God on the one hand and churchly arkydom on the other 
apparently operate on completely different wavelengths regarding what is truly real and 
central to Christianity. The assembly likes generalized, all-inclusive, large-symboled, arky- 
powerful, headline grabbing pronouncements about WOMEN in the CHURCH. But God, 
anarchically disinterested in all that, goes for the loving concern as to what is the state of 
faith of this daughter of his, this one particular "woman in the church" who is infinitely more 
real and important to him than all the symbolic abstractions churchly arkydom has ever 
invented. So as it turns out, what the WCC regards as a "biggie" God doesn't even recognize 
as being for real. And what God finds most important the WCC scarcely notices. 

Let us now turn our attention to the "churches" that supposedly were present at Vancouver 
to hear Solle. Although they acted with somewhat more pontifical dignity, there 
nevertheless was that about them suggestive of a presidential nominating convention. A 
least the polity of procedure was the same. You've seen it: Some slap-happy pipsqueak in a 
crazy hat gets hold of the microphone, and then we hear, "Mr. Chairman! Mr. Chairman! 
THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK goes for the next President of the United States, Senator Ted 
Kennedy!" The guy's own conviction convinces all the rest of us that this is for real, that he 
actually is wielding the representational arky power of THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK to 
determine the course of the nation and, through it, the world. Very many people 
undoubtedly give more credence to his weighty words than to those of the Revelator: 'The 
kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." The 
politician at least spoke with the votes in his pocket, while John had nary a one. 

Once more, let's look at the situation through the eyes of God rather than those of oh-ye-of- 
arky-faith. God knows, of course, that he has a goodly batch of individuals living in the area; 
he may even know that there are boundaries setting it off as a state named New York. But 
that there are a handful of poleticians who, by means of "representation," can speak for and 
wield the awesome power of some world-shaping, individual-transcending arky- 
conglomerate known as THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK-well, I doubt whether that has come 
to his attention. In any case, he surely would have to "come down" in order to see it, as the 
account tells us he had to do to see the Tower of Babel. We know that his eye is on the 
sparrow; but whether he can keep it there and at the same time see THE GREAT STATE OF 
N'YAWK (which obviously has no head the hairs of which it would even be possible to 
number and perhaps not even any real existence at all), that is another question. 



If that is how it iw with THE GREAT STATE OF N'YAWK, how is it, say, with THE LUTHERAN 
CHURCH? No different. It is indubitable, of course, that God keeps track of each and every 
member of the body of Christ (as he does even of its nonmembers). He may even be aware 
that some millions of these are called "Lutherans"-no matter what they call each other. But 
that these millions of Lutherans can then be glommed together into a corporate solidarity 
called "Lutheranism," from which is squeezed out the power-essence to anoint a 
representative who can go to Vancouver and be THE LUTHERAN CHURCH-that I somewhat 
doubt. "My strength is as the strength of tens of millions, because my heart is pure 
Lutheranism!" 

Therefore, though it was called a council of CHURCHES and very much hyped as such, I am 
skeptical that God saw any of them at Vancouver. What he did see was an ekklesia of 
individual Christians. And in the anarchist eyes of God that, in any case, is a far greater 
reality than a council of nonexistent churches. 

Note, if you will, that mine has been quite a different critique of the WCC than any seen 
heretofore. Rather than taking one side or the other, mine would apply to all the voluble 
critics of WCC just as much as to the WCC itself. My example of the WCC was a quite 
arbitrary selection, the critique itself being just as relevant to any of the constituent (or even 
nonconstituent) churches and to both religious and secular organizations generally. My 
anarchist quarrel pointed no more toward the WCC than toward any other arky. 
Nonetheless, there would seem no denying that the WCC was an outstanding 
demonstration of the pomp and circumstance of self-advertised churchly arkydom add its 
collectivist, power-bloc mentality. I don't even know that the WCC could be any different. 
My only point is that it represents a way of "seeing" which is totally other than keeping 
one's eye upon the sparrow. 

So, if Christian Anarchy identifies a skepticism regarding everything "arky faith" represents, 
we here are getting at an essential principle. We are back with Blumhardt: "I am proud to 
stand before you as a man; and if politics cannot tolerate a human being, then let politics be 
damned." Human individuals, by all means; political conglomerates, never! 

Anarchists-whether divine or human-hold that individuals in ekklesia (i.e., in that setting 
which best serves and preserves their individuality) represent the highest human reality 
there is. Thus, whenever any arkydom treats them, rather, as "clods" to be glommed 
together into "mountains" (which God knows to be "molehills"), this represents a 
degradation of humanity and not a magnification of it. 

Anarchist Kierkegaard saw this principle even earlier and more clearly than Blumhardt did. 
Now, among us, Kierkegaard (with Ellul) regularly gets accused of promoting an 
"individualism" that is detrimental to any social concept of "church." However, that 
accusation is accurate depending entirely upon what one means by "church." "Church" as an 
ekklesia of individuals, they are all for. "Church" as holy arky, they anarchistically despise. 

Kierkegaard could state the matter formally and philosophically: 



It is not the individual's relationship to the congregation which determines his relationship 
to God, but his relationship to God which determines his relationship to the congregation. 
Ultimately, in addition, there is a supreme relationship in which "the individual" is 
absolutely higher than the "congregation."... When a person first of all and qualitatively is 
an "individual," the concept "Christian congregation" [we would say "ekklesia"] is secured as 
qualitatively different from the "public," "many," [or what we would call "arky collectivity"]. 

Or again: 

In community, the individual is; the individual is dialectically decisive as prius in order to 
form community; and in community the qualitative individual is essential and can at any 
instant become higher than "the community," namely, as soon as "the others" fall away 
from the idea [namely, the constituting commitment of the ekklesia]. 

Kierkegaard could make it brief and biting: "Nothing, nothing, nothing, no error, no crime is 
so absolutely repugnant to God as everything which is official [call it "arky"]; and why? 
because the official is impersonal and therefore the deepest insult which can be offered to a 
personality." 

He could describe "hierarchy" (pronounced "higher archy") in terms of a pyramid: 

Man is a "social animal," and what he believes in is the power of union. So man's thought is, 
"Let us all unite"— if it were possible, all the kingdoms and countries of the earth, with this 
pyramid-shaped union always rising higher and higher, supporting at its summit a super-king 
whom one may suppose to be nearest to God, in fact so near to God that God cares about 
him and takes notice of him. In Christian terms the true state of affairs is exactly the reverse 
of this. Such a super-king would be the farthest from God, just as the whole pyramid 
enterprise is utterly repugnant to God. What is despised and rejected by men, one poor 
rejected fellow, an outcast, this is what in Christian in terms is chosen by God, is nearest to 
him. He hates the whole business of pyramids. 

Or he could capsulize and conclude our treatment by affirming its thesis that arkydom is 
unreal: 

The more the phenomenon, the appearance, expresses that God cannot possibly be there, 
the nearer he is. So in Christ.... When the appearance expressed that men even denied that 
he was a man ("See, what a man!"), at that moment God's reality was the nearest it has ever 
been.... The law for God's farness (and this is the history of Christianity) is therefore that 
everything that strengthens the appearance makes God distant. At the time when there 
were no churches, but the handful of Christians gathered as refugees and persecuted 
people in catacombs, God was nearer to reality. Then came churches, so many churches, 
such large and splendid churches-and to the same degree God is made distant. 

(The above quotations are taken from my book, Kierkegaard and Radical Discipleship 
[Princeton University Press, 1968], pp. 345, 346, 300, 291, and 332 respectively.) 



Originally, this chapter ended here, but several months after its writing a new idea 
demanded to be put in at this spot. Then, a couple of months after that, the Roman Catholic 
exemplum appeared which will form our capstone. The new idea occurred to me while I was 
teaching out of Howard Clark Kee's study of the Gospel of Mark, Community of the New Age 
(Macon: Mercer University Press, 1983). 

Key's premise (which seems a sound one) is that Mark composed his Gospel specifically as 
instruction for the particular church community (possibly a collection of house-groups) for 
which he had responsibility (Kee thinks in rural Syria). Mark's intention, then, was that his 
readers understand what he portrays as Jesus' leading and counsel of his disciple 
community (A.D. 30) as being also Jesus' counsel to their Christian community (A.D. 65-70). 

Accordingly, one characteristic about which Mark is emphatic is that the Jesus community 
wos-and thus every Christian community ought to be-completely inclusive as to 
membership. Kee finds Mark's Gospel stressing particularly that women, children, and 
Gentiles belong in. He then proceeds to observe that Mark's description of "the twelve" 
defies every effort to make that community reflective of any one socioeconomic class. Some 
of the twelve, of course, were fishermen; but Mark informs us that the father of fishermen 
James and John had hired servants-which would seem to disqualify them from the peasant 
class. Another disciple, Levi, was at least a minor official in the tax office. 

My own thought ran on to consider that all we know of the Pauline communities and of 
early Christianity in general would confirm Mark's picture. The Christian church cannot be 
interpreted as a phenomenon of a particular social class, it being as "inclusive" on this count 
as it was regarding women, children, and Gentiles. From this I concluded that early 
Christianity-just as truly as contemporary Christian social thought-was dedicated to the 
ideal of "the classless society." Nevertheless, it immediately struck me that those two have 
completely divergent ideas as to how classlessness is to be achieved. 

First, as we proceed to think about "class" and "classlessness," we need to keep aware of 
what a great range of distinctions may be involved. In our day, people are grouped and 
defined not simply by socioeconomics, but also by gender, generation, racial and ethnic 
identity, level of education, language, voting habits, shopping habits, and religious 
preference, to name a few. We have enough class distinctions to cut a society every which 
way you choose. 

I don't know enough to speak with authority but my impression is that Marxism was the first 
popular philosophy to base its whole understanding of social history upon the premises of 
class distinction, class consciousness, and class struggle-all, of course, dedicated to the goal 
of a classless society. To this extent, as much as all of modern social thought, Christian and 
secular, is Marxist: "class distinction" (and the conflict that involves) is not only the basic 
fact about society but also its one hope, its means of salvation, the essential instrument for 
directing society to its classless goal. 

(In the following, this is as much as I mean by "Marxism." It is shorthand for "any philosophy 
that defines social progress in terms of a class struggle toward classlessness." My use of the 
word intends no other overtones, is entirely descriptive and no way pejorative.) 



Yet all such "Marxisms"-even while being sincerely dedicated to classnessness-see no 
other possibility of getting there except by taking off 180 degrees in the other direction. 
Classlessness can be achieved only by first locating the class distinction that is at the root of 
the difficulty. The "oppressed class" and the "oppressing" must be spotted and publicly 
identified. Once identified, the consciousness of the oppressed class must be raised-which, 
of course, inevitably leads to the raising of the class consciousness of the opposite number 
as well. A deliberate polarizing is taking place in order that the oppressed class might 
consolidate its power ("solidarity" is the very word, "ideological solidarity")— this in 
preparation for the struggle, the warfare, which is intended to eventuate in classlessness. 

Obviously, the action serves to exacerbate the very class distinction it is out to eliminate- 
but there is no other way. The "oppressed but righteous class" must gain power over the 
"wicked and oppressing class" in order then to replace it, destroy it, dominate it, absorb it, 
or convert it and so leave itself as the one, total, and thus "classless" class. The ideological 
solidifying and polarizing of the class distinction, with the accompanying intensification of 
the class, is the only way to classlessness. 

Granted, this Marxist theory presents some problems: Are we to "continue in sin that grace 
may abound"?-play up class antagonism in the interests of classlessness? But I don't know 
who has come up with any better solution (actually, I do; but I am holding that for a bit). In 
common practice, of course, the business proceeds according to program through the 
spotting of the class distinction, the raising of consciousness, the building of ideological 
solidarity, and the hue and cry of the class struggle-only to hang up on the final step of 
creating classlessness. For some reason, at that point everything that can go wrong 
invariably does. 

Thus, with the Soviet Union of proto-Marxism, the comrades of the oppressed working 
classes achieved their solidarity, won their revolution, and even established the bureaucracy 
which was to be their instrument for creating their classless society. Yet, instead of the 
workers' classless society becoming the total order of the day, lo and behold, the 
bureaucracy itself introduced a new class distinction-doing this by itself becoming 
totalitarian over everyone else. So it went; and so it goes. 

Yet ever and always we have to give Marxism another try-because what else is there? If 
class distinctions are the "given," the only entities we have with which to work; and if the 
inherent conflict between them is that which must be overcome-then what else besides 
class warfare can there ever be? All the liberation movements of our day show the pattern. I 
now use one to illustrate them all. 

The clear and laudable goal of the feminist movement is create a society in which the social 
distinctions between male and female are reduced to adiaphora, matters of no 
consequence. Not only any hint of inequality but even the distinguishing marks of the two 
are to be minimized. A true classlessness is to transpire. Yet that classlessness cannot 
happen by the direct approach of playing down the distinctions; the power of the 
oppressing class must first be broken. No, the immediate steps must point directly away 
from the ultimate goal they would serve. 



Thus: "Yes, the two genders should be treated without distinction." So, from time 
immemorial we have had us an English language that enables us to speak by the hour 
without dropping so much as a hint that two different genders of human beings are 
involved, that there even exists a distinction known as "gender." Yet that way hardly serves 
the raising of feminine class consciousness. Therefore, the rule now is to speak (with 
doubled pronouns and the like) so that the gender distinction is always prominent, to use 
gendered terminology in preference to the ungendered, to take care in specifying women at 
least as often as men. The feminist grammar is designed to serve gender awareness, not the 
classlessness of gender ignorance. 

Thus: "Yes, the goal is that gender distinction disappear." However, on the way to that goal, 
feminine class distinction is necessary-to the point that one theology cannot be taken as 
serving human beings indiscriminately. There must now be a feminist theology in which 
women can have their special concept of God, their definition of salvation, their preferred 
reading of the gospel. Yes, just that far must the commonality of women and men be 
denied-for the sake of ultimate classlessness! 

Thus: "Yes, we look for the day when the distinction between women and men will be seen 
as insignificant if not nonexistent." Nevertheless, for the sake of the ideological solidarity 
necessary to get us there, we find it right to posit an absolute moral distinction between the 
sexes-namely, that it is men who cause wars and that, if given a chance, women would 
create peace. 

Please hear me when I say that I am not lifting up these ambiguities and contradictions as 
being foolish or senseless. No, under the presupposition that class warfare is the only route 
to classlessness, these moves are obvious, proper, and necessary. 

In undoubted sincerity, the feminists claim that their interest is not simply in liberating 
themselves but in liberating men as well. Yet what must be recognized is that this has been 
the standard revolutionary line of every class war ever mounted. However, the question is 
whether true classlessness ever can be achieved through one class gaining the power to 
dictate the terms of that classlessness. Even more, can it be called "liberation" for other 
people to take it upon themselves to liberate you according to their idea of what your 
liberation should be? It strikes me that "liberation" is one term the person will have to 
define for himself. 

But if "class distinction" and "class struggle" be our chosen means, is it possible that the 
contradiction ever can be overcome?-that "classlessness" can ever mean anything other 
than "we are now all of one class, because ours is it"; or "liberation" mean anything other 
than "you are now liberated, because we are in position to tell you that you are"? 

We have not used the term here, yet it must be clear that what we have been calling 
"Marxism" is but one particular form of "arky faith." It is the faith that the struggle between 
those arkys called "classes" can be humanly engineered to eventuate in the social salvation 
called "the classless society." 



We now undertake a tracing of biblical history intent to show (1) that the Marxism of 
"classlessness achieved through class warfare" has proved about as futile an operation as 
humanity has been foolish enough to try; and (2) that a transition has been made into a 
Christian Anarchy that can do (and has done) what Marxism never can. 

From beginning (almost) to end (almost), the Bible presents a classic portrayal (perhaps the 
classic portrayal) of class struggle toward classlessness. In our context, remember, 
"classlessness" is a synonym for "justice." The two classes of which we will speak were, at 
one and the same time, distinguished religiously, ethnically, culturally, and 
socioeconomically-as well as upon the basis of "the oppressed" and "the oppressors." 
Throughout, the oppressed are "the Jews" and the oppressors "the Gentiles" (of different 
varieties). Throughout, also, the patterns of Marxism are obvious. 

• ROUND ONE is the Exodus from Egypt, with the Hebrew slaves as the oppressed 
class and the Egyptian overlords the Gentile oppressors. There is here no question at 
all but that the Hebrew slaves' struggle for liberation was an entirely just cause-as is 
also the case at every point to follow. Our concern has nothing to do with whether 
revolution is ever justified but solely with whether Marxist strategies ever deliver the 
goods. Because the Hebrew slaves apparently started with virtually no sense of 
common identity, a major hurdle in this instance seems to have been the primal 
need for class consciousness. 

Acts 7:25 is quite specific that Moses intended his original killing of an Egyptian 
taskmaster as a signal of revolt and that the matter fell through because the 
Hebrews didn't have enough sense of class solidarity to understand what was going 
on and see their role in it. Before Moses' next try could succeed there was needed 
the consciousness raising of "we are the oppressed slave bloc, God's people; and 
they are the enemy, the oppressing party; and what we are supposed to do is hang 
together and fight them." The pattern is that of any and all class-warfare before and 
since. 

Again, right on program, the actual struggle is interpreted as "holy war," God siding 
entirely with the oppressed class against the oppressing one-God not only 
approving the revolt but actually aiding in the effort and giving the victory. 

The Hebrews best the Egyptians all right, and that Gentile threat is eliminated. The 
trouble is that the victory fails to translate into anything that could be called 
liberation, justice, or classlessness. What we get, rather, is not simply the hardships 
of the desert but, more importantly, the spiritual chaos of these freedmen wanting 
nothing so much as to be back in the slavery of Egypt and, in time, the Old 
Testament dark ages described in Joshua and Judges. All in the world the Exodus 
accomplished was to set the stage for the next class struggle. 

• ROUND TWO pits oppressed Israel against the Gentile Canaanites (and an 
assortment of other pagan tribes). Apparently it is in the course of this long-drawn 
struggle that the class consciousness of "us Jews versus them Gentiles" gets burned 
into the psyche of Israel as its fundamental sense of identity. Now "holy war" 



becomes an explicit theological concept and reality. With God's help through kings 
Saul, David, and climaxing in the reign of Solomon, Israel's holy war is won and the 
Gentile oppressors driven off the scene. God's people are now being in full control, 
there is not one thing to prevent their setting up the just and classless society for 
which they had been fighting. So what happens? 

Well, I suppose simply to keep people from feeling lost in not having any oppression 
to complain about, King Solomon volunteered to step into the breach, tax them to 
death, and even subject fellow Jews to slavery. This, of course, led to the warfare of 
civil strife and the breakup of the kingdom. And whereas Father David had kicked the 
Canaanites out the front door, Son Solomon sneaked Canaanite religion in again 
through the back door with his pagan wives and their followings. One King Ahab, you 
recall, even married a Jezebel and assisted her in establishing Baalism as the religion 
of the realm. What, according to Marxist theory, by all rights should have been 
Israel's accomplishment of her just and classless society turned out, instead, to be 
the period in which the prophets were barely able to stave off the complete 
paganizing of Israel's faith. 

ROUND THREE is the domination and oppression of the Israelite kingdoms by the 
Gentile Assyrian invaders. God's people were not in the best position for fighting this 
one. Israel, the northern kingdom, was lost for good. The southern kingdom, Judah, 
was saved through a miracle of God. Yet "saved" is used here, of course, in a very 
limited sense. Judah did not put her "salvation" to any good use; she simply became 
a puppet state, Assyrianized to the core. 

ROUND FOUR of "God's poor" against Gentile oppression is the Babylonian 
destruction of Jerusalem. At first glance, this would appear to be the one in which 
the oppressed class lost it all. However, at God's intervention, the period of exile led 
to a "return to the land" which Deutero-lsaiah proclaimed as the Jews' best-ever 
opportunity to be the very people of God, a showpiece that "all flesh should see 
together," bringing even the Gentiles into God's one truly classless and truly just 
society. 

Unfortunately, even while being handed the victory in their class struggle, the 
liberated ones again blew the payoff. Deutero-lsaiah's wonderful vision did not come 
to pass (at least at that time and in the way he foresaw). Rather than any bringing of 
the Gentiles into classlessness, in the return to the land under Ezra and Nehemiah, 
the class consciousness of "pious Jew versus damned Gentile" was raised to the 
nasty pitch of bigotry, exclusion, and jingoistic nationalism. Both the book of Ruth 
and that of Jonah probably were written in direct protest against this mean spirit— a 
spirit perhaps best exemplified in the edict that Jewish men must cast off and cast 
out their Gentile wives. Here was a classless society, in the sense that the oppressed 
class had taken over completely and excluded the very presence of any other classes. 
But it is not too pretty a picture of "classlessness." 

ROUND FIVE (to be treated in more detail in our next chapter) is the revolt of the 
Maccabean Jews against the Hellenistic Gentiles, the Seleucids. It is again a case of 



the revolt succeeding but the results being nothing but the newly freed "oppressed" 
becoming the next generation of "oppressors." 

• ROUND SIX (to be treated in even greater detail in our next chapter) pits the Zealots, 
the loyalist freedom fighters of Judaism, against the Gentile Roman Empire. This 
revolt of the oppressed was undoubtedly the most conspicuous failure of all. 

• THE FINAL ROUND is the attack upon the Jew/Gentile class problem led by one Jesus 
of Nazareth. Here-and here only-can it be said that anything remotely akin to true 
classlessness was the result. Regarding this case-and only this case-an apostle could 
declare: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile,... for you are all one in Christ Jesus." 

"Oh, so the Marxist strategy has worked and will work... if one takes Jesus as its 
sponsor?"-which is just what many liberationist theologians seem to be saying. 

No, no, no, no! Jesus' success came through anything but the political method of 
Marxist theory. His was the theological way of Christian Anarchy. 

We have seen that the liberationist methodology (here called "Marxism") is essentially a 
manipulation of those arkys we know as "ideologically constituted classes," aimed at 
insuring that the innocent classes of the oppressed prevail over the wicked classes of the 
oppressors. However, rather than through anything resembling "arky theory," Christianity 
comes at the class problem through a radically anarchistic approach. It will simply deny that 
these "arkys of class" (women against men, poor against rich, slaves against owners, Jews 
against Gentiles) have any actual power, significance, or reality. It will achieve its classless 
community-not by trying forcibly to overcome the class distinctions-but by ignoring them 
and living above them, by the grace of God simply proceeding to live classlessly. This 
Christianity manages to do by the expedient of insisting that human beings are always 
individuals and never ever constituent units of en bloc collectives called "classes." It follows, 
of course, that these human beings are to be treated as individuals rather than being 
glommed into "solidarities" and manipulated in the interest of any class struggle. 

The Marxist concept of "class solidarity" is an invention, a fiction, a sham and delusion. It is 
as "unsolid" a phantasm as ever was fantasized. No one's essential identity is, for example, 
"woman"-this automatically putting her into ideological solidarity with, making her one of a 
kind with, even making her a "sister" within whatever power bloc has chosen to label itself 
WOMAN. No, she is who she is, an individual who-not at all "determined" by her gender- 
will be "woman" as she chooses to define the term; will give herself whatever "solidarity" 
she picks, rather than being pushed into one sort of class distinction; will make of her 
gender what she decides to make of it; will be "sister" to the male chauvinist pigs if that is 
what suits her (men have "sisters," too, you know). She can ignore her classification and live 
outside any class, if that is what she wants to do. 

A person may be under involuntary servitude-but that does not make him, involuntarily, a 
member of the "slave class"-does not dictate that he must share the slave mentality, be in 
ideological solidarity with all other slaves, see his master as an oppressing enemy, or let 
himself he used as a pawn in any class struggle. Even if 99 percent of all slaves display a 
particular character, that does not that he must. His individuality always takes precedence 
over his so-called class status. 



If he wants to, a man has the right to be poverty stricken without getting roped in with 
Charles Wesley's "the humble poor [who] believe." And being wealthy does not inevitably 
put one into solidarity with "the proud rich who disbelieve," either. Because there are only 
individuals of all sorts who have come below a particular income level in various ways and 
are meeting that situation in various ways.... And because there are only individuals (quite 
possibly some of the same people who, ideologically unchanged, had at one time been part 
of the other class) who have come above a particular income level in various ways and are 
meeting the situation in various ways.... Therefore, there are no such entities as a bloc of 
the "proud rich" oppressing the bloc of the "humble poor." The creation of a 
socioeconomically classless society hardly will be served by fostering class warfare 
betwe4en imaginary solidarities. 

The apostle Paul, on the other hand, tells about the one society that has succeeded in true 
classlessness. Speaking from out of the midst of it, he says: "From now on we regard no one 
from a point of view" (2 Cor. 5:16). 

We might think of him going on to say: "No, here we try to see you as God sees you. In the 
eye that is on the sparrow, you are you-and nothing else. If we see that you are a you who 
needs food, we'll try to get that for you. If we see that you are a you who has more money 
than you need, we'll try to get it out of you. But here we do not buy the 'human point of 
view' that insists on identifying people by class. We refuse to see people as 'humble poor' or 
'proud rich' and try to set them against each other. That's not the way God sees anybody." 

The real Paul, again: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is 
neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). 

And as he might continue: "of course, I am not denying that, in our classless society, if we 
chose to, we could find out whether you are of Jewish extraction or Greek; whether your 
legal status is that of slave or freeman; whether you are of the oppressed sex or the 
oppressing. The point is that we don't care. You are a member of the body of Christ; that's 
all we want or need to know. Pretending that these other classifications have significance 
will only confuse the truth of who you really are. So please quit telling us you're a 'woman.' 
We don't care." 

Still again, the real Paul: "Every one should remain in the state in which he was called. Were 
you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the 
opportunity. For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. 
Likewise, he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do 
not become slaves of men. So brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him 
remain with God" (1 Cor. 7:21-24). 

And as he might continue: "You were bought with a price precisely that you might be given 
the one 'classification' that makes any difference, 'member of the classless body of Christ.' 
Your one goal in life should be to remain there with God. Yet the surest way of losing that 
classification is to let the world sucker you into thinking its classifications are important. It, 
of course, insists on categorizing people, defining some categories as 'privileged' and others 



as 'underprivileged,' then turning people loose to fight themselves into a higher class or else 
get an entire class privileged above the opposition. 

"So you're as much as a slave, a poor Nicaraguan who would love to be as rich as an 
American. Of course, if you have a chance of bettering yourself avail, yourself of the 
opportunity. But do you have any idea how unhappy rich Americans can be? I advise you to 
pass up the class-warfare game-which so seldom works anyhow. You already are far more 
free and much better off among us unclassified members of the body of Christ. Indeed, it 
may well have been an actual slave who first sang: 'I sing because I'm happy;/l sing because 
I'm free;/For his eye is on the sparrow,/And I know he watches me.'" 

One more time, the real Paul: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and 
do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal. 5:1). 

And as he might continue: "'Freedom' and escaping 'the yoke of slavery'? No, I am not 
reverting to the lingo of class struggle. I am not speaking of those who, through the exercise 
of class struggle, have already freed themselves from the domination of the oppressor class 
and must now maintain a vigilant class consciousness lest the oppressor repossess them. 
The very opposite: I'm saying that, in Christ's classless society, we have been freed from all 
this deindividualizing, dehumanizing business of class distinction, class solidarity; and class 
warfare. Herein lies freedom-definitely not in one class's gaining the ascendancy to where 
it can impose its 'liberation,' its 'classlessness,' on the others. And yes, we Christians do need 
to keep vigilant (toward ourselves) that we do not let the world entice us back into the 
slavery of what it calls its 'struggle for freedom.'" 

Finally, in Ephesians 2:4-22, the real Paul properly theologizes the matter: "But God, rich in 
mercy, for the great love he bore us, brought us to life with Christ even when we were dead 
in our sins.... It is not your own doing. It is God's gift, not a reward for work done.... Gentiles 
and Jews, he has made the two one, and in his own body of flesh and blood has broken 
down the enmity which stood like a dividing wall between them ... so as to create out of the 
two a single new humanity in himself, thereby making peace." That's what I call 
classlessness! 

Of course I realize that if society had to give up thinking in generalities, give up treating 
people statistically according to class distinctions and social categories, it would come to a 
complete halt. Scientific analysis (and particularly those of the social sciences) would be 
rendered impossible. It undoubtedly is correct that even Christians and the church must be 
able to deal in these terms. Laboring under the human limitations we do, we, frankly, don't 
possess an "eye of God" capable of watching and comprehending each and every person (let 
alone sparrow) as an individual. 

However, what, by the grace of God, we can do is know that classification is a necessary evil 
and not the key to the truth about human society. We can know that classification always 
represents an injustice toward the real individuality of the persons involved. We can resist 
rather than welcome class thinking-knowing for a fact that we are being the more godly 
(and thus closer to true classlessness, liberation, community, and justice) whenever we can 
manage to think and deal in terms of individuality. 



Collectivist class thinking is clearly of the arkys-is the means and method of arky power. Just 
as clearly, the insistence that human beings be considered and treated individualistically 
represents an anarchical refusal to accept or legitimate anything of arky philosophy or 
procedure. 

Perhaps I also should say once more that the individualism of Christian Anarchy is not in any 
sense a threat (or even a counter move) to true community. No, the threat to community 
lies rather in the ideological solidarities of arkydom's class consciousness. What arkydom 
calls "solidarity" is actually pseudocommunity, the very opposite of true community-and 
this precisely because it and overrides the God-given "freedom of individuality" upon which 
true community is premised and in which it consists. 

An exemplum will establish the relevance and contemporaneity of the above discussion. As 
of the time of this writing, Roman Catholicism is approaching a showdown between the 
church (i.e., the Vatican) and certain of its priests associated with "the theology of 
liberation." (As to how many and which thinkers are liberation theologians who fall under 
the church's indictment, I certainly am not in position to judge. The term "liberation 
theology" is itself umbrella large enough to cover a great variety of thought. In the Catholic 
case, it will be for the Vatican to decide. In our case here, it will be for readers to judge for 
themselves.) 

A couple of news stories name the Brazilian Franciscan monk Leonardo Boff as "one of the 
leading exponents of the theology of liberation." He is quoted from a magazine article as 
saying, "The theologians of liberation want to know why poverty exists, not just poverty as a 
social fact. In this sense, for a liberation theologian, Marx aids in seeing social sin, and in this 
sense, I think that Marx is useful to the higher cause of theology." 

The same accounts then cite the Vatican theologian Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as attacking 
"the progressive line that adopts the Marxist notion of 'class war' as historical 'fact' on 
which to base the 'mission of salvation.'" Boff's fellow Brazilian, a second Vatican theologian 
Cardinal Angelo Rossi, adds, "We can't accept class war as a concept because it leads to 
violence, and that is against the gospel." (Rossi's observation is true enough, though we 
have suggested that the essential error comes not just at the point of violence but at the 
very first step of taking class distinction as the essential truth of social reality.) 

The Pope himself gets into the news story with quotations from a message he had recently 
sent to an African bishop's conference: "The solidarity [he might have chosen a better word] 
of the church with the poor, with the victims of unjust laws or unjust social and economic 
structures goes without saying." (Certainly the record of John Paul's own administration 
supports his statement. The point at issue with the liberationists has nothing to do with 
whether the church should not be concerned with justice and help for the poor. It has to do 
solely with whether class warfare is the gospel way-or even an effective way-of social 
progress.) 

The Pope continues: "[But] the forms in which this solidarity is realized cannot be dictated 
by an analysis based on class distinctions and class struggle. The church's task is to call all 



men and women to conversion and reconciliation, without opposing groups, without being 
'against' anyone." (Sound familiar?) 

Finally, Cardinal Ratzinger raises a matter that points to a succeeding chapter of ours: His 
basic criticism is that liberation theology injects Marxist social theory into "the fundamental 
postulates of the gospel." "[It] elevates to theology that which in reality should be a social 
ethic or social theory. [It] mixes two levels, that which is Christianity and that which is social 
ethics." Ratzinger calls this an abuse of theology. 

I must admit I would never have thought of looking to the Roman Catholic hierarchy for 
support of my idea of Christian Anarchy. But when they offer it, I certainly am not about to 
turn it down. 



Chapter Four 

ON SELECTIVE SIN AND RIGHTEOUSNESS 

Regarding this chapter, I owe the Holy Spirit (or whoever inspired it) an apology. I got it in 
the wrong book. 

This chapter (in somewhat different form) appeared in my previous book, Towering Babble, 
from Brethren Press (from which kind permissions have been obtained). Granted, it almost 
didn't make it there. The idea came late, after the rest of the manuscript was already in 
process at the publisher. It was my mistake to think it was given me for the book already 
marked finis when actually it is all about Christian Anarchy. However, the Spirit didn't have 
the grace to tell me it was about anarchy (all right, I wasn't really listening). But at that time 
I didn't even know there was such stuff-let alone that I was into it and had been elected to 
write a book about it. How was I to know the crazy chapter was meant as the nucleus of a 
new book rather than an untimely born appendix to the old? I apologize-but I still don't 
think it was entirely my fault. 

The thesis now is that an almost invariable characteristic of "arky faith" (whether that of the 
establishment legitimizers of the Right or the new-order revolutionists of the Left) is what 
shall here be called "zealotism." The insight came to me by way of the studies of a professor 
of New Testament from the University of Tubingen (Germany), Martin Hengel-though he's 
had no more idea that he's actually been talking about Christian Anarchy than I've had. 
That's how it is with us accidental anarchists-so I better tell the whole story. 

Hengel has specialized on the first-century Jewish revolution against the Roman military 
establishment, the proponents of which came to be identified as the Zealots. The spirit 
these revolutionaries represent ("zealotism," we shall call it) marks, I would say, a great deal 
of modern Christian thought. So in the following, a capital-Z Zealotism designates the first- 
century phenomenon and lower-case-z "zealotism" the perennial manifestation of it. 

Hengel has two slim (almost booklet) volumes, Was Jesus a Revolutionist? And Victory over 
Violence (both from Fortress Press and both, unfortunately, out of print). As one our top 
experts on the Sociopolitical background of the Bible from intertestamental times through 
the earliest Christian centuries, he is eminently qualified to tell us the stories of two Jewish 
revolutions. The first— a century and more before Jesus-was the Maccabean revolt against 
Hellenistic oppressors (the Seleucids). The second-getting underway during the time of 
Jesus and running almost fifty years beyond him-was the Zealot revolt against Roman 
oppression. 

The ultimate purpose behind Hengel's study-his being an unknowing anarchist-is to 
critique the revolutionist, liberationist, radical-social-change, political-activist theologies of 
our own day. "Revolution"-as we have been using the term all along-might be defined as 
"an all-out, holy-arky effort to unseat an evil regime (the Establishment) and replace it with 
a just one (the Revolution)." The word "violent" does not appear in our definition; but the 
question is whether such revolution has any chance of succeeding without resort to at least 
some forms of violence. Thus, to avoid confusion, Hengel is careful not to follow popular 



thought in using the terms "revolution" or "revolutionary" in reference to Jesus. Surely, the 
way of Jesus was something quite different from that of human-heroic arky power. 



Hengel uses the two Jewish revolutions as models of revolutionism in general-models of 
revolutionary idealism and ideology as well as models of revolutionary procedure and 
outcome. 

There is no question but that both the Maccabean and Zealot uprisings met every possible 
qualification for "good," justifiable revolution: (1) In every aspect of life, the populace had 
been pushed to the extremes of oppression; their grievances were real; they were in despair 
and without hopeful alternative. (2) The revolution arose out of the lower, oppressed 
classes and was the spontaneous expression of their need. Their leadership came out of 
their own ranks. They were not being manipulated for the political advantage of any 
ideological clique. (3) Their goals were entirely right and good. They sought no more than 
simple justice; their demands were in no way exorbitant or self-serving. (4) Their religious 
motivation was strong and pure. They wanted truly to obey God, to be free to worship him 
and establish his justice. They were not prostituting the faith in the service of their 
revolution. (5) Each of these revolts turned to violence only as a last resort; any observer 
would have had to agree that no other political possibility was open to them. 

The main difference between the two was that the Maccabean revolt succeeded and the 
Zealot revolt failed. The sad sameness was that both came to an identical end-"success" 
"failure," no appreciable difference. 

The Maccabees were quickly successful in achieving their revolutionary goals: they won 
back the temple and reconsecrated it; they fought themselves free of the Seleucids-their 
taxation, their enslaving of people, their cultural hegemony. Yet, in the process, the 
revolutionists had become power hungry and couldn't bring themselves to stop fighting. In 
their turn, they became imperialist toward the Gentiles. The revolutionary leadership 
became corrupt and extortive, fell to fighting among themselves, actually became 
collaborationist with the Hellenists they had set out to oppose. Perhaps saddest of all, the 
revolution which originated as resistance to Jews being forced to give up their religion and 
become Hellenist wound up with the Jewish establishment forcing Gentiles to be 
circumcised. At the very time Jewish revolutionaries were defeating the Hellenist 
oppressors, Hellenist morality was subverting Judaism. And it is easy to show that this is not 
the only revolution in history to have "succeeded" in just this way. 

With the Zealots against Rome, there was also some initial success-a gaining control of at 
least one section of Jerusalem. But again, the revolutionary leaders fell to fighting among 
themselves, and in this case the Roman military responded with a vengeance. The 
population was killed or went refugee. Jerusalem was leveled to the ground and burned. 
God's holy temple was gone for good, and, at Masada, the Zealot survivors committed 
suicide in one of history's most gruesome and ghastly episodes. It is no thanks to the heroic 
freedom fighters that Judaism itself survived either of these revolutions. Their efforts would 
have lost it; the survival is owing solely to the grace of God. I do not believe the case can be 



made that either of these revolutions went bad because of poor decisions that a wiser 
leadership (say, modern Christians like ourselves) would have avoided. No, disaster 
somehow seems to be built into the very economy of arky revolution. 

However, Hengel uses his exercise to show that the style of Jesus is as opposed to the arky 
faith of revolutionists as it is to that of the establishment-and this in an entirely 
fundamental way, not simply on the matter of physical violence. Of course, some 
proponents of liberation theology argue that the only reason Jesus doesn't show up as much 
of a political revolutionary is that the situation of his day didn't really provide for such a role. 
They imply that, if Jesus were around today, he would undoubtedly be out there with the 
best of them. 

Hengel's answer is that first-century Palestine showed just as true a revolutionary ferment 
as any hot spot of the world today; that, had he had the inclination, Jesus easily could have 
joined (or led) about any sort of revolution he chose to; and that, rather than accidentally 
missing the revolution, he deliberately disavowed it root and branch. 



I have some doubt that Hengel was aware how big an idea he was onto or how close he was 
to identifying Christian Anarchy; but in his treatment of "Jesus and the Tribute Money" 
(Mark 12) he gets to the very heart of the matter. We will let Hengel explain things his way 
(Was Jesus a Revolutionist?, pp. 32-34) and then I get to say what I think it all means. What 
follows is a paraphrase of Hengel-my English may communicate better than his translated 
German: 

There is no evidence that Jesus ever had anything good to say about the Zealot 
revolutionaries-although he was probably even more strongly opposed to the 
establishment Jews who were cozying up to the Roman occupation. Nevertheless, Jesus' 
stating that the tax coin should be given to Caesar in no way can be understood as his 
legitimizing and siding with the establishment. Consider that the question about tax 
payment had been put to him as the hypocritical trick of some establishment-types. They 
knew-and were depending upon the fact-that he would never align himself with them, 
would never favor collaboration with the Romans. So, if they could work him into a corner 
where he would have to say that taxes should be withheld, he would be as much as an 
admitted Zealot. They could then report him to the authorities as an enemy of the state. 

Yet the Zealots, it must be understood, were much more than simple tax withholders such 
as we know today-and much more radically consistent. Because the tax coin, the Roman 
silver denarius, bore the likeness and inscription of Caesar, the Zealots considered it both 
traitorous and idolatrous even to look upon one, let alone possess it. To so much as hold the 
things and profit by them would itself have been a collaboration with the foreign oppressor. 
No one could accuse these resisters of taking Caesar's money with one hand while refusing 
to give him his percentage with the other; their disassociation from the evil system was as 
complete as they could make it. Accordingly, in showing their allegiance to God, they were 
as willing to knife a Jewish collaborator as a Roman overlord. 



That Jesus had to ask for a denarius surely is meant to indicate that he didn't own one and, 
to that extent, might qualify as a Zealot. Conversely, that the questioners immediately 
produced one clearly identifies them as collaborators. The setup poses Jesus an inescapable 
choice-he must recommend either supporting the establishment by paying taxes or 
supporting the revolution by withholding them. 

The first meaning of Jesus' answer is to the effect that those conscientiously able to take 
money off Caesar (his image on the coin is proof enough as to where they got it) had better 
also find themselves conscientiously able to pay back the share he demands-that's part of 
the bargain; they're already committed. Notice, however, that this has nothing to do with 
the either/or choice. Collaborators (and that they have Caesar's coin is proof enough that 
they owe) should pay their taxes; yet that says nothing as to whether one should or should 
not possess coins and be a collaborator. 

The zinger comes, then, with Jesus' second meaning (which, by the way, is not an answer to 
the question that was put). This, the text tells us, left them "amazed." "How did he come up 
with that one? We thought we had him with no way out." Hengel suggests that the Greek of 
the connective should be translated "but" in place of the usual "and": "Render to Caesar the 
things that are Caesar's-but to God the things that are God's." 

With that, Hengel observes, the whole debate about what does or does not belong to 
Caesar becomes irrelevant in view of the nearness of God. Choosing God is really all that 
matters-not the choosing between the Establishment and the Revolution. All choices other 
than the choosing of God become what Hengel calls "adiaphora," i.e., things of no real 
consequence. It is senseless to take them too seriously, either positively or negatively. 
Neither the Establishment nor the Revolution, neither paying taxes nor withholding them 
has anything to do with the coming of the kingdom of God. And recall what Ellul observed 
regarding this text: that Jesus elsewhere identifies mammon as being a product of evil's 
realm and nothing God is particularly interested in claiming as his own. 

According to Hengel, 

World power [whether establishment or revolutionary] is neither justified nor condemned. 
It is deprived of its significance, however, through that little word "but," which pushes 
everything to God's side. True freedom from the powers [whether establishment arkys or 
revolutionist ones] begins with an inner freedom; and inner freedom, in the new Testament 
sense, only he achieves who has grasped in faith the nearness of the love of God which 
leads him away from himself to his fellow man. 

Choosing God with this sort of intensity must entail the denial that the outcome of history is 
being decided in the contest of the human arkys we have chosen to designate as "good" and 
"evil." Consequently, Christians refuse to become embroiled in the contest, whether 
investing themselves in the arkys of the one side or the other. And this stance is what we 
have been calling "Christian Anarchy." 



After picking up this interpretation from Hengel, I found other prominent New Testament 
scholars not only in agreement but contributing further insights of their own. In his book 
cited earlier, Howard Clark Kee analyzes Mark's Gospel, not simply as a historical report of 
what Jesus had said and done thirty-five to forty years earlier, but as Mark's on-the-spot 
instruction to and statement of the position of his own Palestinian church community- 
which was living right up against the Jewish-Roman War of A.D. 66-70. 

Kee suggests that "four main options were open to Jews of Palestine in the period prior to 
the first revolt": 

1. "The first was to collaborate fully with the Roman overlords and their puppets, the 
Herodian tetrarchs and petty kings" (p. 97). As is regularly the case, this position was 
that of the aristocratic elite, the "profiteers" who could do themselves a bit of good 
by playing along with the oppressors. 

2. "Or the Jews could assume the more passive form of acquiescence to Roman rule 
and to Rome's economic standards. It was this attitude that was adopted by the 
Pharisees, who concerned themselves largely with the maintenance of personal and 
group piety within their own community" (p. 97). 

3. "The third position, of which we hear nothing directly in the gospel tradition but 
which has significant kinship with primitive Christianity; is that of the Essenes.... The 
Essenes [unlike the Christians) withdrew from society [and] clustered in their desert 
settlements" (p. 98). 

4. "The remaining position was that of the insurrectionists" (pp. 98-99). Kee uses 
Josephus in describing how widespread and pervasive revolutionist activity was in 
the Palestine of Mark's day. 

5. However, "the community of Mark adopted a position that was not consonant with 
any of the options.... Their rejection of the use of political power or physical force, as 
shown by Jesus' denunciation of the power play by the sons of Zebedee [to which he 
responded with the words: 'You know that those who are supposed to rule over the 
Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them, but it 
shall not be so among you. ..'--10:35-44] and their concurrent acquiescence in the 
payment of tribute to Caesar (12:13-17) would have enraged the revolutionaries" 
(pp. 99-100). 

At another point in his book, Kee sums up his reading of the Markan community: 

Since messianic language is political language, since the chief image for the new age in Mark 
is "the kingdom of God," and since Jesus had, according to Mark 14-15, been executed as a 
pretender to the Jewish throne, it was difficult for the Markan community to avoid 
sympathies, if not connivance, with those who were working to free Palestine from Roman 
control. But Mark records Jesus as refusing to make a move in that direction.... Between 
persons [such as those of the Markan community] who shared this strange view of the 
coming of the kingdom solely by divine grace and those who seized initiative in taking it by 
storm there could be no common ground, (p. 93) 

After this chapter and the book itself were long completed, I remembered that Gunther 
Bornkamm and his turning-the-corner-on-Bultmann study, Jesus of Nazareth (Harper & Row, 



Eng. 1960) [Ger. 1956] belong very much within the present company. Bornkamm has an 
exegesis of Mark 12 (pp. 120-24) which harmonizes completely with what we have had from 
our other New Testament scholars-but in which he comes closer to actually saying the 
words "Christian Anarchy" than any of them do. More importantly, although again without 
using our terminology, he finds a profound Christian Anarchy within Jesus' Sermon on the 
Mount-where I don't know that anyone else has perceived it. 

First, on Mark 12, he opens by spotting the major theme of the pericope: "Seen against this 
background (the Roman oppression of Palestine), it is most astonishing and remarkable that 
political problems should take second place in Jesus' preaching. The reason for this is 
without any doubt the expectation of the approaching reign of God" (p 121). As we will be 
observing time and time again, it is another case of the Arky of God crowding any and all 
human arkys out of their places of primacy, as it were. 

Then, after arguing that "Render unto God the things that are God's" is the heart of the 
passage, he concludes: "But the very fact that here the entire problem of the state is thus 
put in the margin, and that its fundamental problems are not allowed to come to the 
surface, is obviously a very important word on the whole matter.... Herewith Jesus' word 
opposes all attempts, be they Jewish or Christian, reactionary [Bornkamm must here have 
intended 'radical' or 'revolutionist,' if the pattern of his sentence is to hang together at all] 
or conservative-loyal, to improve the world with ideologies" (pp. 123-24). Read: "Christian 
Anarchy." 

Second, his anarchical interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount is revealed in a section 
entitled 'The New Righteousness" (pp. 100-109). He is examining Jesus' attitude toward the 
Old Testament "law," the torah. To appreciate the full weight of Bornkamm's argument we 
must know that Israel's torah represented the compendium of the divinely bestowed, 
culturally inherited definition of and instruction about what is good and right and wise 
regarding personal, moral, religious, social, economic, and civic aspects of life. Perhaps no 
other people has ever had all its tradition so neatly collected and codified; yet it must be 
correct to say that every society has its own torah, in however scattered and disorganized a 
state it may be. 

Whether, then, one has in mind first-century Judaism or any other culture, Bornkamm 
suggests that people take one of two different "fronts" regarding their torah: "The first is 
the front of the fanatics who wish to claim Jesus for their own as the great revolutionary, as 
the prophet of a new world order, as the bringer of a new era, to which must be sacrificed 
all that has gone before.... For them, the will of God which has ever summoned and bound 
us is a burdensome chain which must be discarded. This picture of the future of the world is 
now made the only valid law.... This movement rushes towards a dreamed-of-future, right 
past the law of God and heedless of it" (p. 101). This, of course, is what we have been calling 
the revolutionist, or liberationist, view of those whose arky faith lies in the new world order 
to be introduced by Christian creativity and virtue. 

Jesus dissociates himself from this leftist front, Bornkamm suggests, with the words, "Think 
not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets: I have not come to abolish them 
but to fulfill them" (Matt. 5:17). Jesus will neither join nor approve those who reject the 



torah by damning it as "the dead past" from which they are moving away as they proceed 
toward "the new, dreamed-of future." 

Conversely, the second "front" regarding one's torah is that of those who see it as the 
means of society's salvation. Certainly not by moving away from the torah but by moving 
toward it in ever closer attention, respect, and obedience-it is in this way that both 
individuals and society will find their beatitude in the will of God. This, of course, is the 
alternative we have been identifying as "the establishment," or "legitimization." 

Bornkamm suggests that Jesus just as explicitly dissociates himself from this front (only 
three verses later, in Matt. 5:20) with the words, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness 
exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." 
With the scribes and Pharisees, to move toward the torah as one's goal is just as wrong as 
moving away from it. 

Bornkamm then proposes that the literary pattern of the remainder of Matthew 5 both 
underscores Jesus' rejection of the rightist arky faith of salvation by obedience to the torah 
and points to his own distinctive stance (which we will show to be Christian Anarchy). "You 
have heard that it was said to men of old ... but I say to you." (a) It was said not to kill; I say 
don't even be angry, (b) It was said not to commit adultery; I say don't even look lustfully, (c) 
It was said to divorce properly; I say not to divorce at all. (d) It was said to swear properly; I 
say not to swear at all. (e) It was said an eye for an eye; I say don't even resist, (f) It was said 
to love friends but hate enemies; I say to love even enemies. It is plain that Jesus' 
authoritative innovation is to push the torah to be more strict and demanding than even the 
scribes and Pharisees had it. 

At first blush, Jesus' move appears to be an effort to get even closer to the torah than the 
legalistic legitimizers have managed-in consequence making obedience even more 
impossible than it has proved for them. Yet, Bornkamm suggests, this is not at all what Jesus 
has in mind. Jesus is not making the torah itself his end and goal-as the conservatives do. 
No, his move is to punch through the torah to get to the Giver who stands behind it. Once 
that is accomplished, it becomes apparent that obedience to the torah was simply another 
human arky-faith proposal for getting ourselves saved. Yet after we get past that arky to 
stand directly before God, then, as something of a fringe benefit, we find the grace, 
transformation, and power which enables us to obey even "the intensified torah" in a way 
we could never have done simply on our own. Although claiming no righteousness in having 
done so regarding their obedience to the torah, Christians who are living out of the grace of 
a direct relationship to God actually exceed the obedience of the scribes and Pharisees who 
are seeking righteousness as an end in itself. 

So, if the torah is not "the dead past" from which we must liberate ourselves in order to 
enter "the new future," and if it is not "the way to life" that could be ours by following it- 
then what is it? You don't suppose it was from Jesus that Paul learned to see the torah 
neither as jailer nor savior but as the household servant whose job is simply to get the 
children to school, delivering them directly and safely into the care of the one true 
Schoolmarm (Gal. 3:24)? 



Again, this is a case of renouncing any form of arky faith in order to go all-out with the Arky 
of God. If you will, it is a case of rendering to the torah as much as actually belongs to the 
torah but, of infinitely greater importance, rendering to God what belongs to God. For Jesus 
carefully to pick his way, avoiding either establishment "salvation by torah" or revolutionary 
"salvation from torah"- well, that strikes me as one rather fundamental variety of Christian 
Anarchy. 



Our scholars have brought us this far; from here on out we're on our own. 

What Jesus accomplished in that Mark-12 confrontation, I suggest, is this: he makes the 
distinction between the one, ultimate, absolute choice and all lesser, relative choices. So 
draw on your mental blackboard, if you will, a horizontal line. As poles of an "either/or" 
choice, label one end THE ARKYS OF ESTABLISHMENT and the other THE ARKYS OF 
REVOLUTION. You need not go to the mental effort of writing them in; but consider that 
subhead labels could be "Collaborate with the Romans" at the one end and "Resist the 
Romans" at the other; "Conscientiously Pay Taxes" at the one end and "Conscientiously 
Withhold Taxes" at the other. A little additional thought would show that, in addition to 
"The Establishment vs. the Revolution," any number of other morally contested arky 
alignments (such as "pro-torah" vs. "anti-torafr") would fit the diagram as well. Any and all 
such horizontal polarities, such human alternatives, we will call "relative choices." 

In Mark 12, Jesus says that none of these represents the real issue of human existence and 
social destiny. These, one and all, are "adiaphora" in comparison to the one choice that 
really counts. So, at the other end of your blackboard (you haven't already erased that first 
diagram, have you?) draw a vertical line-except, don't make it a solid, continuous line (dots, 
dashes, or other forms of tenuousness will do nicely). At the top of this line, then, write 
GOD. At of the bottom of the line, however, we want to put the entire "Establishment vs. 
Revolution" alignment, plus every other possible horizontality-and summarize the whole bit 
with the word WORLD. 

Now this vertical alignment-in which a person either chooses "God" or chooses something 
else which, however good or evil it seem, is obviously "not-God"-this constitutes the only 
ABSOLUTE choice there is or can be. It is what Jesus was talking when he said: "The eye is 
the lamp of the body. So, if your eye [this choice] is sound, your whole body will be full of 
light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light 
in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he 
will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. 
You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:22-24). The book of Revelation is after the 
same idea in insisting that, at any given moment, every person bears either, on his 
forehead, the seal with the name of the Lamb and his Father or else, on his hand, the mark 
that names the Beast. 

Thus, this choice is absolute in that everyone must make it; to fail to choose God is already 
to have chosen the world. Of no relative choice is this the case. The whole point of Jesus' 
response to the tax question is that refusal to join the Revolution is not the equivalent of 



joining the Establishment (or vice versa). In Scripture, it is only God in Christ who can say, 
"He who is not with me is against me." The assumption that one must either absolutize the 
state-arky as a god (as does the establishment) or else absolutize it as a satan (as does the 
revolution) is utterly false. Jesus asks us to absolutize God alone and let the state and all 
other arkys be the human relativities they are, at once relatively good and relatively evil- 
even as you and I are. 

The choosing of God-and only this choice-is absolute in that everything else hangs on it. 
Only here does "your whole body" become full of either light or darkness. 

The choice is absolute in that it is the only true "life and death choice," the only "black and 
white choice," the only choice between light and darkness (to use Jesus' own terminology). 
Between "God" and "the world" there is no natural connection, no possibility of gradual 
transition, no shadings of gray, no middle ground, nothing shared in common between the 
two ends of the choice (which is why, on your diagram, you were asked to make that 
vertical a non-line). Here and only here are we invited-or even permitted-to "hate the one 
and love the other, be devoted to the one and despise the other." 

This choice-and only this choice-is absolute in that there is no room for dialogue or 
discussion between the poles, no room for seeking what is true and good in each, for 
effecting any sort of reconciliation or compromise. Here there can be no conversation (as 
there could be none when Jesus chose not to debate Pilate), for when God is that which is 
to be chosen, "To whom then will you compare me?"-as it is put in Isaiah 40:25. No, all one 
can do is choose and choose absolutely—" let goods and kindred go; this mortal life also." 

Once one has absolutely chosen God-it needs to be sa\d-then it is perfectly proper to turn 
to the world and find all sorts of relative values there. Thus the issue is not the customary 
one of being either world-rejecting or world-affirming; it is rather the question of primacy- 
who's master, God or the world? But once that has been settled, there is no end to the 
amount of discriminating world affirmation that can take place. 

Now the root sin of arky-faith's zealotism is the penchant for absolutizing what are actually 
relative choices, for treating as vertical those alignments that are actually horizontal. The 
contest between two different "not-God" positions is treated as though it involves a 
choosing of "God," as though one of the positions were the position of "God" and only the 
other a "not-God" position. 

However, the truth of the matter is that relative choices represent an entirely different 
alignment from the absolute choice and must be approached in an entirely different 
manner. God, of course, has the right to demand that every person choose him or, in failing 
to do so, choose the world. We have no right to demand that anyone choose between our 
humanly defined alternatives. Being humanly defined, the alternatives we set up are never 
black and white; at best, they are only differing shades of gray. It is hardly our place, then, 
to suggest that people must choose what we define as "the Revolution" or else be damned 
as part of what we define as "the Establishment," choose what we define as "liberalism" or 
else be damned as what we call "a conservative," choose what we define as "peacemaking" 
or else be damned according to our definition of "a war-maker." 



Just the opposite of the way it is with the absolute choice, relative choices-in their 
comparative grayness-must recognize the essential commonality of the two poles; they are 
two varieties of the same thing. Both the Revolution and the Establishment are nothing 
more than arky ideologies regarding the use of political power. Either may be capable of 
making some real contribution to human welfare, and each is capable of really messing up 
things. Neither can guarantee anything, whether good results or bad ones. Establishment 
types are sinners and revolutionaries are sinners-you can take that as axiomatic. 
Consequently, what horizontal alignments present as "opposite poles" are actually different 
points on a continuous spectrum of relative good and evil (which is why you drew your 
horizontal as a solid, connecting line between the two "poles.") 

Thus, just where the vertical, absolutist alignment emphasizes polarization and prohibits 
conversation, horizontal relativism calls for the opposite. What it presents as polar 
distinctions are not such and dare not be treated as such. Instead, what is called for from 
both ends is humility, honesty, openness-a spotting what is wrong and a looking for what is 
right in both the one position and the other; a give-and-take that is mutually affirmative as 
well as mutually critical; two-way recognition and correction; a search for reconciliation 
through the discovery of new locations on the spectrum where the values of each can be 
preserved as the "poles" move closer together. Precisely because the alignment is relative, 
each position must be taken as only relatively right or wrong, relatively fixed, relatively 
important. 

Kierkegaard, perhaps, has put it best: "Whatever difference there may be between two 
persons, even if humanly speaking it were most extreme, God has it in his power to say, 
'When I am present, certainly no one will presume to be conscious of this difference, 
because that would be standing and talking to each other in my presence as if I were not 
present"' (Works of Love, p. 315). 

Nevertheless, just because-in comparison to the absolute choice, in comparison to God and 
his kingdom-all relative, human choices are seen as adiaphora is not to say that they are of 
no importance at all, that they merit no concern or attention from us. To say that each pole 
represents a shade of gray is not to say that, in every case, it is the same shade. It is not to 
say that one arky might not have a relative advantage over another, a moral advantage well 
worth striving for. I don't know that Jesus ever condemns our involvement with and struggle 
over the relative arky choices that confront us. In fact, he gives instruction and counsel 
regarding many of them. However, what he does condemn is our bypassing the absolute 
choice in the interests of absolutizing some relative choice which we choose to make all- 
important. Consequently, we dare not, in principle, declare the Revolution always to be 
preferable to the Establishment (or vice versa). Each case is relative to its own merits. 

We now can define "zealotism" as that moral zeal which gets so carried away in its holy 
cause that it takes its own relative righteousness for the absolute righteousness of God 
himself. The anti-Roman Zealots of the first century are a good example of the disease; yet 
we need to realize that, even there, "zealotism" was by no means confined to the Zealots. 
The collaborationist Jewish establishment, for its part, was just as zealously certain that its 
arky represented the "God-pole" of the alignment. And each could adduce good arguments. 
The establishment held the temple, the priesthood, the Scriptures, and religious learning- 



and stood for law and order. The revolution represented the eschatological hopes of the 
people-and stood for righteousness, justice, and the liberation of the poor. The fact that 
each had a convincing God-claim would seem a rather good indicator of the relativity of 
both. In his anarchical response, Jesus displayed the very wisdom of God when, rather than 
choosing between them, he renounced the zealotism of both. 

Yes, zealotism can and does show itself across our spectrums-political, religious, 
sociocultural. It is nothing peculiar to the radical Left. In our day, for instance, the Moral 
Majority shows as much absolutizing zeal as anyone. However, because most readers of this 
book are likely to be left-leaners, I will continue to take my examples from and make my 
applications to the revolutionist end of the spectrum. 

If the above analysis is correct, the Zealot movement did not become sinful only when it 
became violent. In its absolutizing of the relative (insisting that one's readiness to resist 
Rome is the test of true faith), it was sinful from the beginning and would have been so even 
if it had somehow managed to avoid physical violence. In fact, my guess is that it is the very 
action of absolutizing that makes violence as much as inevitable. Once a party is convinced it 
represents "God" over against "Satan," it is in position to justify whatever action proves 
necessary in taking out that satan. 

The sin of absolutizing the relative could, I suppose, be called idolatry; but I'm not sure that 
quite says it. It is not so much a case of setting up a god besidesYahweh as it is our 
presuming to locate God, to say where he stands (namely, at the position of our arky's good 
cause and against the other arky's bad cause). We do this rather than allowing God to locate 
us (namely, as sinful, lost, and helpless). But whatever such sin should be called, it is bad-a 
form of Eden's "titanism" in which man presumes to set the rules by which God must play, 
assigns him his position on the field, and even tries to coach him. Zealotism signifies 
something much more serious than simply an enthusiasm for God that accidentally 
overdoes a good thing. 



Starting out bad, zealotism inevitably gets worse. We defined it as "moral zeal for a holy 
cause"-but that was to put the matter as charitably as possible. With some regularity 
zealotism comes across more strongly as "moral zeal against unholy causes." Although the 
first-century Zealots claimed (undoubtedly honestly enough) that their motivation was the 
liberation of the poor, what they became best at was sticking it into the ribs of the rich (to 
the extent that they even came to be known as "the knifemen"). True to form, 
contemporary zealots prove much more proficient at denouncing whomever they choose to 
call warmakers than they are at positive peacemaking. 

Now it may be thought that these two-loving the good and hating the evil-come to the 
same thing, that they are simply two sides of the same coin, but that just isn't so. Jesus 
showed us that they are not-at the same time showing that he was not a Zealot. He loved 
the poor-but did it without hating the rich. He loved the poor, indeed, while showing love 
toward different rich people at the same time. In fact, in his book Money and Power 
(pp. 137-73), Ellul argues well that Jesus didn't even draw the good-poor/bad-rich distinction 



in the same simplistic terms we do. None of this, of course, is to deny that Jesus did 
recognize an important although relative distinction between the poor and the rich. How 
did he manage it? He managed it by anarchically keeping relative alignments relative, 
refusing to absolutize them. It is only those absolutely certain of their own Tightness who 
can afford to take out after those they know to be absolutely wrong. 

Indeed, there is reason to believe that, at least in some cases, behind the zealous castigation 
of a particular sin or sinner lies the castigator's need to butress his own holiness. He centers 
in on a selected sin (which is not his) in the interests of promoting his own selective 
righteousness. Such clearly was the case with the scribes and Pharisees whose zealous 
hatred of immorality had them ready to kill the woman taken in adultery. Plainly, their 
actual concern was not so much her sin as the promotion of their own righteousness. They 
were out to use her-absolutizing her relative moral defect as a way of simultaneously 
absolutizing their own (defective) moral righteousness. Zealotism's outlook of "us good guys 
versus them bad guys"-white-hatted heroes versus black-hatted villains-lends itself to just 
such grotesquery: the black, black, blacker I can paint my selected enemy, the white, white, 
more heroic white it leaves me. "I thank God that I am not like other men-notably Ronald 
Reagan" (Luke 18:11). 

In this regard, there is at least one conspicuous difference between all forms of "biblical 
theology" on the one hand and the contemporary "liberationist theologies" on the other- 
whether those target Third World poverty (liberation theology), racism (black theology), 
sexism (feminist theology), or war (peace theology). Even if biblical thought has now to be 
stigmatized as "Western-white-male-military theology," it must still be admitted that that 
theology is dedicated to bringing Western white male warmakers (along with everyone else) 
into confrontation with their own sinfulness. Yet with modern liberationist theologies, 
things are otherwise. The regular pattern is to find out and denounce the sin of the enemy 
and leave one's own constituency smelling like a rose. These theologies are so deeply 
invested into society's arky struggles that they can't afford to give the enemy an inch by 
admitting even the possibility of wrongness in themselves. Zealotism simply does not make 
for good biblical theology. 



As we proceed to analyze the character of Christian zealotism on the current scene, perhaps 
the one best example lies in the "peace movement," that arky opposing nuclear armament. 
We will stick with it as our example, our case study-although with the understanding that it 
is only an example. Zealotism itself is a widespread disease which readers, on their own, will 
have no trouble spotting and diagnosing throughout our bodies politic and ecelesiastic. 

Current church literature and teaching often give the impression that we Christians consider 
it more important for a person to join us is in opposing the nukes than in worshiping Jesus 
Christ as Lord and Savior. We use a person's stand on nuclear arms as a truer test of a 
person's Christianity than his stand on the biblical proclamation as to who Christ is. This is a 
zealotism, the prioritizing of human arky above the true God. 



Likewise, the movement shows the zealot tendency of becoming highly sensitized to the 
selected "sin of the day" (which is regularly someone else's rather than our own) and as 
much as totally insensitive to sins that come closer home. As Jesus put it, we get agitated 
about the speck in the other person's eye while completely ignoring the log in our own. So, 
for purposes of log/speck comparison, let's put the sin of nuclear armament up against, say, 
the sin of adultery-first being reminded that the same set of ten commandments which 
says, "You shall not kill," also says, "You shall not commit adultery." I find nothing in the text 
of those commandments inviting us to categorize its prohibited sins into those which are 
really, really bad and those which aren't really bad at all. 

That paragraph sets my argument about adultery but hardly constitutes it. Much more 
needs to be said about the basic character of sin and how the sinfulness of given behavior is 
to be evaluated. The criterion cannot be simply the statistical-sociological one of how many 
individuals are adversely affected in what way. Much more important is the discovery of the 
spiritual economy involved, what the sin has to say regarding the sinner's relationship to 
God. "Sin" always is defined in relation to God before it is in relation to neighbor (although I 
do not mean to suggest that the two aspects are ever separable). Yet the modern tendency 
is to be completely blind to the Godward side of sin. 

Regarding nuclear armament, then, its principal and essential sinfulness is certainly the 
effrontery of the nations in wresting from God's hands the power and authority to direct the 
course of history and dictate the future (or non-future) of the planet. It is the Tower of 
Babel all over again. By the way, this has been the sinfulness of militarism since the 
beginning. Nuclear capability marks a technological advance but hardly a qualitative leap in 
the spiritual economy of the sin itself. No, the sinful determination to power history into 
going our way undoubtedly has been a constant throughout the life of the race. 

Regarding, then, in its turn, the sin of adultery, the Bible's paradigmatic treatment will best 
tell us what we need to know. Although, as far as we are told, King David's was a one-time 
affair that was quickly repented, yet we must be impressed by how seriously God took the 
matter-sending a prophet especially to get things straightened out and having the story 
written up in Scripture as a critical juncture in the history of his people. Plainly, more was 
involved than a bit of sexual misbehavior that incurred God's legalistic displeasure in having 
one of his commandments broken. 

No, with David-as probably with most of his celebrity colleagues in this sin-it seems not to 
have been his intention to challenge the Tightness of the Seventh Commandment. In fact, he 
was probably all for it ... as a rule for common, run-of-the-mill sinners. They need such 
constraint; it helps keep them on the straight and narrow. Yet the case is entirely different 
with His Royal Majesty, King o' the Realm David. It is given to kings to make the laws- 
definitely not to obey them along with the hoi polloi. David's clearly was an "elitist 
adultery," a matter not so much of "executive-" as of "titanic-privilege," the privilege of 
being "big man." 

Thus, the sin of David was not so much "adultery" as the pretension of claiming to be "like 
God." God himself well understood what was involved and so had the affair commemorated 
as marking both David's personal decline and the progressive breakup of his kingdom. If the 



spiritual economy of nuclear armament is that of Babel, the spiritual economy of this sort of 
adultery is that of Eden. And who would presume to say which is a log and which a speck? 

Yet the evidence is that the sin of "elitist adultery" is still very much with us and that God's 
spiritual diagnosis of it is correct. A recent biography of Lyndon Johnson makes it plain that 
he was of the company-and quotes him something to the effect that "power" is a 
wonderful aphrodisiac (an observation that gets to the very heart of the matter). 

In a syndicated newspaper piece, columnist Joan Beck raises concerns similar to ours-this in 
connection with the abysmal personal morality of different members of the Kennedy family 
as that has been exposed in a number of recent books about them. Regarding President 
Kennedy, she writes: 

And didn't voters have a right to know that he cheated routinely on his wife-or that he used 
the Secret Service to sneak women in and out of the White House and that one of his longer 
dalliances was with the mistress of Mafia leader Sam Giancana? Or that when there were no 
Hollywood stars or starlets around, he used two blonds from the secretarial pool whom he 
and his friends called "Fiddle and Faddle" (while Jackie, who knew about them, dubbed 
them "the White House dogs")? 

Please hear me when I say that my point in speaking of these two presidents has nothing to 
do with any desire to attack or derogate them. My one interest is the extreme selectivity 
and inconsistency with which Christian zealotism applies moral standards. By what logic do 
we see it right to scream bloody murder about the sinfulness of nuclear armament and 
show virtually no concern about the sort of adultery that goes on among bigwigs in the 
worlds of religion, business, and entertainment-as well as politics? 

It will not do to try the usual dodge of suggesting that nuclear armament is a matter having 
widespread public repercussions while adultery is a purely personal matter. It strikes me 
that Beck's picture identifies President Kennedy as extremely sexist— a matter interpreted as 
anything but "one's private business" in our day. So why is it writers who fail to conform to 
feminist decrees regarding good English who regularly get accused of sexism, while the most 
prominent feminist of the country names President Kennedy as one of her favorite men? 
Could this be selective moralism? 

Further, John F. Kennedy's taking of Roman Catholic wedding vows (with a nuptial mass) 
"before God and these witnesses" was a deliberately public act of solemn covenant-making. 
Deliberately public, also, was his carefully nurtured, politically essential image as husband, 
father, and family man. So, if President Kennedy was this quick to put the satisfaction of his 
carnal appetites ahead of honesty and the integrity of his solemn oath-taking, what 
assurance have we that he would not treat his solemn oath of office the same way? 

I submit that this sort of power-privileged deceit and infidelity (to God and these witnesses 
just as much as to his wife and family) is every bit as much a threat to the moral existence of 
society as nuclear armament is to its physical existence-which, I think, is why in the first 
place God wanted the commandment against adultery in there right along with the one 
against killing, and why he gave special attention to David's case. Consequently, I was 



greatly disturbed when, in reviewing one of these Kennedy books, The Christian Century 
opined that, although the Christian public once would have been disturbed by such 
presidential behavior, it now can take it in stride. Does this not reflect a most highly 
selective moral standard? 

What is going on when, regarding President Nixon we are determined to take every step to 
ferret out his "sin," damn it in no uncertain terms, broadcast it to the ends of the earth, and 
dog him with it to his grave? So what is going on when, at the same time, regarding 
President Kennedy, we treat his "sin" as something we'd just as soon not hear about and, 
having heard, would prefer to forget and not have broadcast any further. Nixon's sin we play 
up to be as heinous as we can make it. Kennedy's we play down as a peccadillo Christians 
ought lovingly overlook. So what is the principle of selection behind so obvious a practice of 
selective sin and righteousness? Let me make a try at that one. 

In the first place, this selectivity must be an indication that our "moral standards" come 
from somewhere other than an absolute commitment to the absolute God. The hallmark of 
his justice is its impartiality, its refusal to show bias or play favorites. "You shall not be 
partial in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike; you shall not be afraid of 
the face of man, for the judgment is God's"-as was understood as early as the writing of 
Deuteronomy 1:17. Our moral selectivity has to have come from somewhere other than 
God. 

My understanding is that this selectivity indicates a zealotism born of the worldly arky 
contest. Could it be that what actually triggered our moral indignation against Nixon was the 
fact that he was a Republican "conservative" with a less than winning personality? Could it 
be that what calls up our moral leniency toward Kennedy is the fact that he was a 
Democratic "liberal" of very winsome personality? Could it be that, in our zealotism, we 
adapt our "moral standards" to serve as weapons of arky warfare? Could it be that we have 
our moral sensitivity honed to a fine point when there is opportunity for using its righteous 
indignation to shaft the enemy with whom we disagree and whom we just plain don't like? 
Could it be that we have that moral sensitivity just as conveniently blunted as soon as there 
arises the possibility that its judgment might fall upon ourselves or the friends we do agree 
with and very much like? Could it be that selective sin and righteousness is a far cry from the 
real thing, namely God's understanding of both sin and righteousness? 



Apart from "biased morality," zealotism leads to other difficulties. Apparently, along with 
the absolutist sense of being right comes also the license to say about the opposition 
anything that pops into your head-as long as it is bad. The assumption seems to be that it is 
manifestly impossible to malign the devil-whether that devil be the U.S. Government or the 
National Council of Churches (Left and Right, tit for tat). But regularly, one of the first 
casualties of zealotism (and a most serious loss) is the biblical command to "speak the truth 
in love" (Eph. 4:15). 

That command has two aspects, both of which are essential. "To speak the truth" surely 
intends a scrupulous regard for fact-both in taking pains to get the facts (all the facts) 



before presuming to speak and in sticking to the facts when one does speak. Plainly, this 
obligation is the more weighty when we set out to accuse an enemy than when we are out 
to compliment a friend. We need to be aware of and ready to correct for our personal bias 
and proclivity. 

To speak that truth "in love," then, adds a further obligation. Kierkegaard once pointed out 
that, although our natural propensity is to be very strict toward other people's sins and very 
lenient toward our own, Scripture would have it the other way around: we should be most 
suspicious of our own perceived righteousness and most ready to forgive and make 
allowance for what we perceive as the sin of others. 

However, it is in his treatment of "Love Hides the Multiplicity of Sins (1 Peter 4:8)" (in Works 
of Love, pp. 261ff.) that Kierkegaard becomes most pointed. One of his theme statements 
reads: "Love hides the multiplicity of sins, for what it cannot avoid seeing or hearing, it hides 
in silence, in a mitigating explanation, in forgiveness." And it is his middle term-"a 
mitigating explanation"-that is particularly germane to our topic of speaking the truth in 
love. 

In almost every case, even after the facts are in hand and have been given their true value, 
there is still a great deal of leeway, still room for a number of different interpretations, 
differing explanations of what those facts actually mean. Zealotism, out of its absolutizing 
need to make the black-and-white contrast as stark as possible, regularly gives the most 
negative interpretation to the behavior of "the enemy" and the most positive ("taking in 
stride") to that of "the friend." Love, Kierkegaard insists, always opts for the most positive, 
even (or especially) in the case of enemies. Of course he is not asking that we ignore or twist 
the facts in the interests of love. Rather, in telling the truth, we should make it as loving as 
the facts will allow. 

As we come to specific examples, we are still sticking with the peace movement. Our point 
can better be made with one case study than by banging away, hit or miss, all over the 
place. However, let me reiterate that I am not singling out the peace movement for special 
criticism. The "loose speaking" of zealotism could be documented on one issue or another, 
with party after party, left, right, and probably middle-all across the political (and 
theological) spectrum. 

Let me say at the outset that I believe very few if any peace zealots, of whatever persuasion, 
to be deliberately unloving speakers of untruth. Recall that our initial definition of zealotism 
included the words "carried away"; this must be the very truth regarding these obviously 
well-intentioned people-whether of the Left or the Right (including even the first-century 
Zealots and their Establishment enemies). Nevertheless, zealotism often fails to speak the 
truth (whether in love or not) and that by several different means. 

Half-truth: We seek out and speak loudly the worst things about the enemy, while 
neglecting to as much as mention the good things that would round out and balance up his 
picture. 



Half-truth: We single out our selected villain and really roast him, carefully ignoring the fact 
that, if he were compared to those around him, he might even show up as the best of the 
bunch. 

Haif-truth: As per the suggestion Kierkegaard already has made, we give the worst possible 
interpretation to what may even be accurate facts about our enemy. 

Half-truth: We keep the probing spotlight fixed on him and are careful not to let it fall upon 
ourselves. 

Regarding the peace issue, the enemy surely should be identified as that nationalistic pride 
and pretension which proposes to take over and run things its own way-in defiance of God, 
the public welfare, and humane concern. But at the same time, it should be recognized that 
this disease is and has been endemic to every state or government (rightist or leftist) that 
has ever been. "Impositional power" is the very name of the arky game. More, this sort of 
pretension is a disease that can and does infect cause-groups and individuals as well as 
nations. It has not even been demonstrated that zealots themselves are immune to it. 

But zealots can't be content with a targeting that might posibly splash even onto them. The 
villain has to be more narrowly selected. Nationalistic warmaking now is seen to be the 
particular sin of the technological West. 

With that, absolutism is taking over, and the truth we are committed to speak is slipping 
away. Both historically and presently the Third World has warred and killed with all its 
limited technological skill-just as the West has with its almost unlimited technological skill. 
But that the wars of the Third World have been notably smaller than those of the West is no 
credit to the people's moral restraint-any more than the grand scale of Western war is a 
sign of those people's greater depravity. Both are intent on doing the best sinning possible 
with what they've got. And the more I learn about Pol Pot's purge in Cambodia, the more I 
wonder whether any Western state will ever be able to play in that Third World league. To 
damn Western war and leave the Third World looking like lovers of peace simply is not 
speaking the truth. 

But with zealotism, things get worse rather than better. It turns out that the black heart of 
the black West is the United States of America. "More than any other event in history the 
worldwide human experience of those August days in 1945 (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) was a 
recapitulation of the primeval Fall." In the totality of human history there has been but one 
sin to compare with Adam's, and our own United States of America has the honor of having 
committed it. We win out over the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, Judas' betrayal of 
Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus, the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the Turkish genocide of 
Armenia, the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin's purges, you name it. Compared to us, everything else 
is innocence. 

Why would it not be nearer to speaking the truth in love to say some things such as these: 
"In World War II, every combatant that possessed atomic capability used it. That some did 
not possess it is of no moral credit to them. The evidence is that all would have liked to have 



it and would have used it if they had had it— as would the Romans (or the Zealots) if it could 
have been theirs in the first century. So where is this quantum jump in moral evil? 

"Whereas Hiroshima was destroyed with a single bomb, other cities in other nations and 
other wars have suffered similar devastation from conventional (if not primitive) weapons- 
it just took a bit longer to do it. So where is the quantum jump in moral evil? 

"Although we are not obligated to agree, we are obligated seriously to consider and 
thoughtfully to respond to President Truman's rationale for using the bomb. His explanation 
cannot simply be waved aside as disingenuous." 

One characteristic of zealotism is to pooh-pooh and airily dismiss-rather than face and 
confute-arguments from the other side. But Truman's stated purpose was to end the war 
quickly and thus save great numbers of both Japanese and American lives which very surely 
would have been lost if we had had to fight our way into Japan and Tokyo. For that matter, 
if the Zealots must share the moral responsibility for what the Romans did to Jerusalem, 
why should not the Japanese High Command share moral responsibility for the fact that 
they refused to surrender even after we had given them every possible signal that this was 
their only alternative? They did have it in their power easily to end the war with the saving 
of countless lives. We could end it only through one of two alternatives (the bomb or the 
invasion)-each very costly. Construe the facts any way you honestly can, there hardly seem 
grounds for accusing President Truman of a quantum jump in moral evil. But to continue: 

"That the Hiroshima bomb was not 'history's most evil event' as the zealots make it out to 
be is shown clearly by its context. The bomb was not used as a first strike but as one blow in 
a raging war in which every combatant already was throwing everything he had. And this 
war the U.S. had not started but had entered only under the provocation of what was 
indeed a dastardly first strike. The U.S. purpose in using the bomb clearly was to achieve a 
surrender and a cessation of hostilities, and was in no way a genocide of the Japanese 
people. In defeating the Japanese, the U.S. did not practice the sort of torture and atrocity 
the Japanese had practiced very freely in their turn. The subsequent occupation of Japan 
shows for a fact that the U.S. had no imperialistic designs and no interest in the sort of 
domination and exploitation that was the case, say, in the Roman occupation of first- 
century Palestine." 

Now I am opposed to war-all war, including the U.S. involvement in World War II. But in my 
anti-war manual of the Bible I find not one little bit of this business of playing fast and loose 
with the facts in order to single out one nation's "war demon" as the special recipient of 
true Christianity's righteous rage. I find it suggesting, rather, that from Cain on, all war has 
been very much the same, a manifestation of the same spirit of sin, no matter who's doing it 
how-even if it should be the "peace people's" war against the U.S. Government. 

I find nothing in my Bible of the white-hatted "us" being paired off against the black-hatted 
"them"; picking out one party as particular villain while letting off others as comparatively 
innocent; interpreting technological advance as the measure of moral regression. And for 
the life of me, I can't figure out how this polarizing approach is supposed to improve our 
chances of finding peace. I'll take speaking the truth in love every time. In fact, it strikes me 



that the only statement in the vein of the opening quotation that Scripture would allow is: "I 
can't speak for others, but in my heart I know that I myself have recapitulated the primeval 
Fall." 

It was most interesting for me to discover that what is to my mind the one best answer to 
and refutation of this sort of anti-Western, anti-American zealotism was written by a scholar 
who is himself the sharpest in spotting social, political, and spiritual sin-a man frequently 
quoted so by the peace zealots themselves. This is, of course, no less than our first-to-be- 
named anarchist Jacques Ellul-in an essay, "The Defense of the West," from his book The 
Betrayal of the West (New York: Seabury, 1978). I recommend it. 

Another example of the zealotism good anarchists deplore is this from a Bible scholar 
arguing the case for tax resistance and having some trouble with Paul's Romans 13 words 
about paying taxes, honoring the emperor, and all: "It should be clear [he says] that it does 
not do simply to quote Paul as if the nuclear situation and the modem state were no 
different than the Roman occupation forces." 

I contend the man now has bigger trouble than he had before he spoke. He does not see the 
implication, but as a conservative biblicist he has lost his authoritative Bible. There is no 
reason why the logic of his statement couldn't as well be worded to read, "It should be clear 
that it does not do simply to quote the New Testament about the resurrection of Jesus 
when modern man knows that resurrections cannot and do not occur." His way, the Bible 
comes totally under our control; we can make it say whatever we prefer: "Of course, if Paul 
were writing today, he would say the opposite of what he said then." 

But more, what under the sun could this writer come up with if he were called upon, 
speaking the truth in love, to document such categorical moral superiority of the pagan 
Roman military over the modern U.S. Government that, inspired by God, the apostle Paul 
would be impelled to contradict himself, commanding his first readers to obey the Romans 
but commanding us to disobey the U.S.? 

Why, the very way the U.S. Government handles this very writer's own tax resistance, 
compared to the way Rome handled tax resistance in its day, shows that he has his moral 
comparison completely wrong end to. Ellul's sharp question would seem to apply: "Is 
anyone really unable to see the difference between the United States and Hitler or Stalin?" 
Our Bible scholar is, without doubt, a learned and honest man; I think he simply got "carried 
away." 

More than just moral bias is involved in this peace zealotism, however. I earlier said 
something to the effect that the stated issue is "war or peace" as the zealots themselves 
choose to define those terms. What I had in mind is this: A great many honest Christians see 
themselves as devoted wholly to peace-even while believing that nuclear deterrence is the 
only possible way of preserving it. Yet, in our moral zeal, we are not about to let that sort be 
considered "peace people" along with ourselves. We aren't about to credit either their 
honesty or sincerity; they are black-hatted warmakers as much as any. 



Of course, the truth of the matter is that they are as sincere in their desire for peace as is 
any of the zealots, and they are not fools. Whether one winds up agreeing with them or not, 
their argument deserves a hearing and response. After all, it is true that deterrence already 
has succeeded in preventing nuclear holocaust for much longer than early predictions said it 
could. And it is a fact that the longest interval of European peace on record is the one in 
which we are now living, inaugurated by the nuclear age. Now I happen to find the 
deterrent argument a mix of truth and error (as I find the unilateral disarmament 
argument)--and I would like to talk with the deterrentists about that. But what is certain is 
that this crucial dialogue can't take place as long as, in our zealotism, we find it right to 
reject these honest peacemakers out of hand, as being nothing other than evil warmakers. 

What may be an even worse violation of speaking the truth in love is our righteous zeal in 
refusing to make any moral distinction between having nuclear weapons and using the 
same. As one writer has it: "Even if Cain, because of some fear, had held back the lethal 
blow and had contented himself with murder fantasies and pantomimes when Abel's back 
was turned, the ghastliness of his intent would have remained. With megakill, too, an 
unspeakable ghastliness of intent for a hundred-million-fold murder is there." 

The analogy has an evil brother intent on doing in an innocent brother with his back turned. 
The writer doesn't say how those roles are to be allotted among the superpowers -except 
that the U.S. Government is regularly his villain. However, the more serious question is 
"Whom is he accusing of entertaining murder fantasies, of being eager to nuclearize vast 
populations and ready to do so in an instant if it were not for the restraining fear of 
retaliation?" Is he suggesting that every U.S. president in the nuclear age has had this 
ghastly intent?-or only the Republican ones? Or, since his charge is entirely general and 
open-ended, are we to understand that anyone (his fellow Christians included) who does 
not buy his program of immediate and total disarmament can be taken as wanting to use 
the nukes? Read it as you will, it strikes me as a totally unsubstantiated calumny against 
one's brothers and sisters. I think the writer got "carried away." 

What simply cannot be right is our joining the first-century Zealots in their identifying their 
own small party as the locus of godly righteousness and consigning everyone else to the 
outer darkness of demonism. As they wound up knifing even those fellow Jews they decided 
were "collaborators," so we wind up damning as murderers many fellow Christians who are 
as concerned for peace as we are but who happen not to share quite our view of how to get 
there. 

Finally, even as I find zealotism unbiblical and un-Christian, I can't figure out how it is 
supposed to work, how it shows any possibility of accomplishing its declared purpose. If the 
peace movement be understood as a battle against the forces of evil, I guess zealot methods 
of battling at least fit the picture. However, if the purpose of the peace movement is to help 
pacify the conflicts and tensions of a storm-vexed world, I can't figure how zealotism stands 
a chance of making any contribution at all. For instance, a tax-resister publishes an article 
arguing his position and winds up telling the reader: "I fully expect that you will be able to 
put me down with theological arguments, or discredit me with a self-righteous application 
of Scripture taken out of context to justify and rationalize your position." What possible 
purpose is that line meant to serve? 



I suppose there must be some satisfaction in being so sure of your position that you can 
brand all dissenters as frauds without even hearing what they have to say. I can see a 
certain cathartic effect for an author, coming on as the White Knight to take his whacks at 
the foulest monster of human history since the serpent in Eden. I would guess that zealot 
literature goes great in zealot circles. Of course, it does nothing to encourage one's fellow 
zealots in examining themselves, looking for their own sin, but it certainly must serve to 
confirm them in the righteousness of their cause and the wrongness of everyone else's. Yet I 
would think the cause of peace (perhaps above all others) should be focused upon reaching 
out-upon dialoguing with others, becoming reconciled with others, convincing others, 
winning others for the peaceable kingdom. 

Yet why should anyone want to consider tax-resistance after being told that, if he raises any 
questions, it can only be that he is putting down the author and self-righteously distorting 
Scripture? This is meant as an invitation to dialogue? Why should any believer in peace 
through deterrence be willing to consider Christian pacifism after being told that he is a 
murderer awaiting only the opportunity to push the button? Why should anyone consider a 
peace action when that means accepting the premise that the U.S. is so much more 
depraved than the Roman military in Palestine that the Bible is to be read the opposite of 
what it says? Why would any sensible patriot consider aligning himself with the peace 
movement if that means agreeing that the United States of America committed history's 
one greatest recapitulation of the Fall of Man? 

There is no way wild accusation can amount to a positive contribution to the cause of peace. 
Personally, I doubt whether the irresponsible denouncing of bad people (and I have been 
denounced by some of the most righteous people around) is ever much help at all— at least 
it has never been of any help to me. For sure, this was never the mark of Jesus' approach to 
sinners, even though his righteousness would beat that of all the world's zealots put 
together. 

So let us have done with the business of polarizing what ought to be reconciled, denying 
kinship where we should be finding commonality, shouting down what ought to be heard, 
putting down those who should be helped up, blackening reputations where we should be 
cleansing them, making enemies of those who might be made friends, displaying our 
righteousness at the cost of the other guy's, absolutizing issues that should be left relative, 
doing violence (yes, violence) to both truth and love. 

What is the cure? Where is the way out? Whether either Jesus or Hengel-Kee-Bomkamm 
knew they were speaking Christian Anarchy, Jesus said it and they caught what he said: "But 
give to God what belongs to God." Make him the absolute that shows up all other choices as 
relative. That way, and only that way, lies freedom-freedom from the false absolutizing of 
the arkys (whether absolutizing the state as a god or, what is just as bad, absolutizing it as a 
satan); freedom to treat relative choices as the human relativities they truly are; freedom in 
which "world power is neither justified nor condemned but is deprived of its significance"- 
by giving to God the absolute loyalty and obedience that belongs to God. 

Note: Allow me to emphasize some of the qualifications I have already stated. That I chose 
to center upon "peace zealotism" is not because I think it the only zealotism around. It may 



be that any important cause-and many an unimportant one-develops its own zealotisms; 
such is the propensity of arky advocacy and cause-making. Yet if I had tried to be "inclusive" 
regarding zealotism, this chapter would have taken over the book. Consequently, I chose to 
be "intensive" in expectation that readers would have no trouble spotting the pattern and 
making the application to other zealotisms far and near. 

Likewise, I chose a left-wing zealotism, not because I think zealotism is in any way confined 
to the Left, but only because, for the readers of this book, left-wing zealotism will be closer 
home. Yet the chapter intends no discrimination regarding the zealotisms of any part of the 
spectrum; each variety is equally bad. 

None of the zealots I have known are dishonest, malicious, spiteful people. They are 
regularly good, sincere, devoted Christians who get "carried away." I can say that from my 
experience with zealots of the Left. I think we ought to be just as quick to say it regarding 
zealots of the Right. 



Chapter Five 

KARL BARTH 
A Theology of Christian Anarchy 

In an earlier chapter, you may recall, in which I listed those thinkers who, to my mind, 
constitute the modern tradition of Christian Anarchy, I centered upon Blumhardt and 
named Barth and Bonhoeffer as more-or-less followers who consequently were themselves 
more or less anarchical. Being only more or less sure of myself, I was that tentative so as not 
to invite anyone to call me out and challenge me to prove that Barth was a Christian 
anarchist. 

Recall, then, that the very idea of "Christian Anarchy" had been triggered by Bernie Ramm's 
saying that he had read something on the subject that named Blumhardt. Well, when Ramm 
finally got around to disclosing his sources, it turned out that what he had been reading was 
nothing particularly about Blumhardt but a book which (incorrectly as we shall see) 
identified Karl Barth as an anarchist-a political anarchist, that is. Inevitably, this as much as 
forced me to investigate Barth-and whoever it was who wanted to call him an anarchist. In 
the course of that investigation, I was brought to the conclusion of this chapter title: that 
Barth's is actually "a theology of Christian Anarchy." 

The book Ramm had been reading was George Hunsinger's Karl Barth and Radical Politics 
(hereafter: /-/uns/'nger)(Westminster, 1976). That book-of which Hunsinger is simply editor 
and contributor of one essay-is a debate (all right, "wild brawl") involving both Continental 
and American scholars. It concerns, first, how Barth's political stance is to be described and 
identified and, second, to what degree that stance was determinative for his theology. The 
different writers argue so many different conclusions that the book's total impress is simply 
confusion. 

However, because Hunsinger was the best source I had or knew of, I originally wrote this 
chapter over it— simply by gleaning Barth quotations from various of the Hunsinger 
contributors. Then, long after my manuscript was at the publisher, I came across a much 
superior source which, in effect, obliged me to junk that first effort and re-do the whole 
thing. (At one point Barth complained that he had to write everything twice-once to get the 
ideas down and then a second edition to get them "right." And at least to that extent, I'm a 
Barthian.) 

My new source was a truly amazing book, Eberhard Busch's Karl Barth: His Life from Letters 
and Autobiographical Texts (Hereafter, Busch) (Fortress, 1976-now distributed by 
Eerdmans). During the last years of Barth's life, Busch was his secretary and assistant. And, 
having total access to Barth's works and papers, what Busch produced would need to be 
called "a constructed autobiography." The words are predominantly Barth's own (or Busch's 
careful paraphrasing)-with no attempt at interpretation or critical analysis. Most 
importantly, they are all properly placed in the biographical context of Barth's personal 
history and development (and my citations of Busch will preserve that feature by bracketing 
in the date of Barth's various statements). Quite apart from the purposes of this chapter, I 



recommend Busch as the best one-volume means both of meeting the man Karl Barth and 
getting a perspective on his total theology and work. 

Where Busch has it all over Hunsinger is in showing that it was never Barth himself who was 
confused about his political stance, his Christian Anarchy, or anything else. That confusion 
has been the contribution of the scholars who were trying to make sense out of him. 
However, we will now come at Barth's Christian Anarchy by letting him tell it his way. Let us 
be clear as to what we are attempting: It is not that we will do a selective reading, picking 
out those statements of Barth having to do with his political stance-then to propose that 
one particular (and minor) strand of his overall theology might be identified as Christian 
Anarchy. Not at all; we will let Barth (through Busch, of course) identify his own major 
themes-and then show that, all together, those add up to what with complete accuracy can 
be called "a theology of Christian Anarchy." 

I. The Birth of Barth's Dialectical Theology 
From World War I to Romans II (1914-21) 

The story of this seven-year period is abundantly clear. Barth is the Reformed pastor in the 
Swiss village of Safenwil. With him at every stage of development is his close friend and 
neighboring pastor, Eduard Thurneysen. 

1. The "Givens" of Barth's Upbringing and Education 

There are two dominant realities standing as the unquestioned (and unquestionable) 
assumptions of Barth's religious worldview; they had been bred into him. The first is the 
general theological stance which will be referred to under many different names but which 
we here try to pin down as 'Neo-Protestant Liberalism." It is this theology he will come to 
repudiate as "the counter-Barth," the heresy-the enemy, the threat to Christian truth. 

Only in the course of time following our initial period will Barth pinpoint the specific loci of 
this theological abomination, but what it comes to is this: The historical fountainhead was 
Friedrich Schleiermacher. The one of Barth's own teachers and mentors best exemplifying it 
was Adolf von Harnack. The three of his contemporaries and colleagues giving him the most 
trouble over it were Friedrich Gogarten, Emil Brunner, and Rudolf Bultmann (with Paul 
Ti Mich so far out of it as to go virtually unnoticed). Brunner caught Barth's most pointed 
attack-though this may have happened precisely because Barth knew that Brunner was 
more biblically oriented than any of the others and so held out more hope of bringing him 
to repentance. Gogarten was simply scratched off as a bad deal. And Bultmann was the 
most troublesome. Barth had known him from student days. Bultmann had a popular 
following-some of his students even attended Barth's classes. The two men made repeated 
efforts to get together-only to have to face the finality of their theological opposition. 

A final manifestation of this theology-which won't quite fit the term "Neo-Protestantism" 
but belongs here in any case-is the Roman Catholic doctrine of analogic/ entis. 

The second "given" of Barth's religious milieu was a profound and serious social concern— 
which, in these days, focused primarily upon "world peace" and "the plight of the working 



man." The channel of action for this concern was a widespread religio-political party, 
Religious Socialism. As Safenwil pastor, Barth not only preached and lectured on these social 
themes but also was very much politically involved with them. 

However, come the turnaround, Barth will be far from totally repudiating his social concern- 
-as he did his Neo-Protestant theology. His social concern will remain as strong as ever; 
what he will repudiate is the theological rationale of Religious Socialism. The expression of 
his social concern will have to take a quite different form. 

2. The Collapse of Barth's Religious World 

The collapse can be dated to the day-August 1, 1914, the outbreak of World War I. Karl 
Barth, in retrospect, says: 

On that very day "ninety-three German intellectuals issued a terrible manifesto, identifying 
themselves before all the world with the war policy.... And to my dismay, among the signatories I 
discovered the names of almost all my German teachers.... To me they seemed to have been 
hopelessly compromised by what I regarded as their failure in the face of the ideology of war...." 
Thus "a whole world of exegesis, ethics, dogmatics, and preaching, which I had hitherto held to be 
essentially trustworthy, was shaken to the foundations, and with it, all the other writings of the 
German theologians." (Busch, p. 81) 

For Barth the outbreak of the World War was "a double madness," involving not only his theological 
teachers but also European socialism.... "All along the national war fronts we saw it swinging into 
line,... the failure of German Social Democracy [that day's 'peace movement'] in the face of the 
ideology of war" (Busch, p. 82). 

Note well what it is specifically with which Barth is so completely disillusioned: "arky faith," 
namely, the confidence that the organized human piety of a nation's leading Christians (the 
progressives, even) could bring society to moral health-or at least preserve it from moral 
death. And this faith of his (thank God) Barth was never able to recover. 

Another aspect of this disillusionment must be mentioned. Recall that both Barth and 
Thurneysen are pastors. Once the poverty of neo-Protestantism had been exposed, they 
were desperate to find a gospel that could be preached as help and good news to their 
people. Throughout his career, Barth's one interest in theology had nothing to do with his 
own intellectual satisfaction; he simply wanted to find the message that could truly be 
preached as gospel. 

3. Turning to Blumhardt 

Christoph Blumhardt, a friend of the Thurneysen family, had occasionally visited in that 
home. A sister of Barth's mother-his beloved Aunt Bethi-was a Blumhardt follower who 
regularly resorted in Bad Boll. Both Thurneysen and Barth had visited Bad Boll from time to 
time during their school days. But when, in April 1915, Barth spent five days there-that was 
different: it was a deliberate seeking of help. 



Above all, it has become increasingly clear to me that what we need is something beyond all 
morality and politics and ethics [i.e., beyond arky faith]. These are constantly forced into 
compromises with "reality" and therefore have no saving power in themselves. This is true even of 
the so-called Christian morality and so-called socialist politics.... In the midst of this hopeless 
confusion, it was the message of the two Blurnhardts with its orientation on Christian hope which 
above all began to make sense to me. ([1915] Busch, p. 84) 

The unique feature, indeed the prophetic feature (and I use the word deliberately), in Blumhardt's 
message and mission was in the way in which the hurrying and the waiting, the worldly and the 
divine, the present and the future, met, were united, kept supplementing one another, seeking and 
finding one another. (Busch, pp. 84-85) 

Call this way of thinking "dialectical." Although Barth's will be called "dialectical theology" as 
early as 1922, we will discover that it took him some time to get his theology as well 
dialecticized as Blumhardt's already was. But then consider that the very thinkers we have 
been identifying as Christian anarchists are also the ones best known for their dialectic 
method. Christian Anarchy is dialectical by nature. 

"Soon after his return [Barth] began to read Zundel's book on the older Blumhardt. He 
found that he was extremely moved by what he encountered in Bad Boll" (Busch, p. 85). "A 
longing began to stir in Barth 'to show himself and others the essentials'" (Busch, p. 86). 

"[Blumhardt] simply passes over dogmatic and liberal theologians, those interested in 
religious morality and us socialists. He is friendly, but quite uninvolved. He does not 
contradict anyone, and no one needs to feel rejected, but at the same time he does not 
agree with anyone's view.... I think that he would also have all sorts of things to say about 
the conflicts and problems which now affect us. But he does not want to say it; it is not 
important enough, because other things are more important to him" ([1916] Busch, p. 86). 
Wherever has Christian Anarchy been better characterized? 

4. The Spin-Off 

Here we will spot the themes and emphases Barth develops between the time of his 
Blumhardt visit (1915) and the 1918 publication of his first book, The Epistle to the Romans 
(hereafter: Romans I). He ascribes none of these ideas directly to Blumhardt, but it is 
obvious that all of them were prominent there. 

a. The Poverty of Human Arky. "[It is not that] the whole of human independence and 
self-assurance are weighted in the balance and finally found wanting? ... [This] is the 
question which then came down on me like a ton of bricks round about 1915" 
(Busch, p. 91). "We must begin all over again with a new inner orientation to the 
primitive basic truths of life; only this can deliver us from the chaos arising from the 
failure of conservative or revolutionary proposals and counter-proposals" ([1916] 
Busch, p. 89). "The problem of 'war or peace?'-about which there was so much talk 
and writing-had to give way to the radical and deadly serious problem of faith: 'With 
God or-as so far-without him?'" ([1916] Busch, p. 84). (How long has it been since 
anyone else ever gave the question of God priority over that of war or peace?) 



"Above all, it will be a matter of our recognizing God once more as God.... This is a 
task alongside which all cultural, social, and patriotic duties are child's play" ([1916] 
Busch, p. 89). (And how long has it been since a theologian has seen "theology" as 
his first order of business?) 

b. The Wholly-Otherness of God. "It was Thurneysen who whispered the key phrase to 
me, half aloud, while we were alone together: What we need for preaching, 
instruction, and pastoral care is a "wholly other" theological foundation'" ([1915] 
Busch, p. 97). This theme will become both crucial and controversial-so keep an eye 
on it. Notice (surprisingly enough) that it begins as a pastoral concern. Then consider 
that it is simply the other side of the coin to "the poverty of human arky"-on the 
way to minting the double-sided piece of Christian Anarchy. "Wholly other than 
what?" Than human arky, of course. A Good wholly other than our human idea of 
"good." A Justice wholly other than our human idea "justice." A Power wholly other 
than the "power" of our human exercise. A Glory wholly other than our human 
vision of "glory." An Arky of God wholly other than even the best and most Christian 
of human arkys. 

"[With us] everything-above all everything that has to do with the state-is taken a 
hundred times more seriously than God ([1915] Busch, p. 87). (Ain't it the truth?) 
"The kingdom of God is the kingdom of God. We cannot conceive radically enough 
[the magnitude] of the transition from the analogies of divine reality to human 
reality. The pattern of [the moral] development [of the race] is a failure.... The new 
Jerusalem has not the least to do with the new Switzerland and the revolutionary 
state of the future; it comes to earth in God's great freedom, when the time has 
arrived" ([1919] Busch, p. 109). (I just happened to read the review of a book by a 
prominent Christian social ethicist of our day, in which the reviewer reports: "[The 
author] is convinced that the kingdom of God can not come until institutional 
structures are changed in North and Latin America." So much for God and his 
kingdom!) 

c. A New Look at the Bible. This one is as critical an aspect of Christian Anarchy as any- 
the Bible being its one source and authority. "We tried to learn our theological ABC 
all over again, beginning by reading and interpreting the writing of the Old and New 
Testaments more thoughtfully than before.... I sat under an apple tree and began to 
apply myself to Romans with all the resources that were available to me at the time" 
(Busch, p. 97). And under that apple tree began the move toward the Romans books 
that would climax the whole development. 

In 1917, Barth delivered a lecture which was the first public account of his new 
biblical studies. He called it The Strange New World within the Bible: "In the Bible we 
find something quite unexpected: not history, not morality, not religion, [not human 
arky,] but virtually a 'new world': 'not the right human thoughts about God but the 
right divine thoughts about men'" (Busch, p. 101). This is more than just a new look 
at the Bible; it is looking at the Bible as the word of God in a new (a more honest and 
open) way. 



d. The Eschatological Orientation of the Gospel. "I began to be increasingly preoccupied 
with idea of the kingdom of God in the biblical, real, this-worldly sense of the term" 
(Busch, pp. 92, 97). "For Barth, the question of according God a place of central 
importance was becoming more and more fundamental. And since he had met 
Blumhardt, it was very closely connected with the eschatological question of the 
Christian hope" (Busch, p. 87). "Nothing new, Barth argued, was to be expected from 
'secular circles,' among which Barth also included human attempts at reform and 
even the church: 'The world is the world. But God is God'-the 'but' is there because 
new things are to be expected from God" ([1915] Busch, p. 87). 

e. Religious Socialism: Barth, Kutter, Ragaz. This matter was a most sticky one for Barth 
and is most crucial regarding Christian Anarchy-partly because it involves political 
praxis rather than just theological theory. We have now a triangular relationship 
between three dedicated religious socialists-all three of whom appeal to Christoph 
Blumhardt as mentor. (Recall that, much earlier, Blumhardt himself had been very 
much into religious socialism-joining the party, running for office, and representing 
it in the Wurttemberg legislature. Yet somewhat later he had decided to withdraw 
completely.) In addition, Barth, Kutter, and Ragaz were all three Swiss-sharing a 
common sphere of influence-and all three had begun their careers as pastors in the 
Reformed Church. 

Hermann Kutter represented the "waiting" pole of the Blumhardtian dialectic and 
Leonhard Ragaz the "hurrying" pole-without either managing to dialecticize the 
relationship. "Accordingly, the two sought to exploit the upheaval caused by the First 
World War in very different directions: Kutter with a summons to tranquil 
reappraisal, Ragaz with appeals for pacifist action" (Busch, p. 86). Yet no more than 
Jesus did regarding the tribute money was Barth about to let himself get trapped 
into that "either/or." He chose to go dialectical with Blumhardt: "Isn't it better to 
strive for the point where Kutter's 'no' and Ragaz's 'yes'-Kutter's radical tranquility 
and Ragaz's energetic tackling of problems ... come together?" (Busch, p. 86). "Barth 
realized even more clearly that he was 'always forced to follow Kutter in matters of 
emphasis' but that he 'could not rule out Ragaz's position on any important issue'" 
(Busch, p. 86). 

In 1916, "under the title 'Wait for the Kingdom of God, ' Barth had sent Ragaz a 
review of Blumhardt's House Prayers for [the magazine] Neue Weg. In it he wrote 
some words which were unmistakably directed against the Religious Socialists: 'Our 
dialectic has reached a dead end, and if we want to be healthy and strong we must 
begin all over again, not with our own actions, but quietly "waiting" for God's action.' 
Ragaz refused to publish the review because he rejected its argument as being 
quietistic" (Busch, p. 92). "Ragaz and I roared past one another like two express 
trains: he went out of the church [which he felt to be a 'drag' on his social activism], I 
went in [feeling the church was the 'place' for a new theology]" (Busch, p. 92). And 
years later, Kutter wrote a letter to the effect that he could only regard Barth as a 
'general rejection' of his own theology (Busch, p. 162). Barth's anarchy lost him his 
friends at both ends of the dialectic. 



In 1918, then, "Barth now even dissociated himself clearly from Ragaz and Religious 
Socialism-for all his acknowledgement of it and dependence on it. 'Pacifism and 
social democracy do not represent the kingdom of God, but the old kingdom of man 
in new forms [almost Blumhardt's exact words when he was in the similar 
situation]'" (Busch, p. 101). As a powerful example of Christian Anarchy, Barth shows 
the inherent dialecticism that refuses to commit itself to either the quietist or the 
activist alternative-either the conservative or the revolutionist-in the struggle to 
give to God what belongs to God. 

f. Religious Socialism: The Tambach Conference. For Barth, his disillusionment with 
Religious Socialism did not imply his dropping of membership, participation, or 
interest. Rather than an "annihilation," his was a "desacralizing" or "profaning" of 
that arky. Simply and honestly as sheer human arky (and nothing more than that), he 
would have been quick to grant that it was one of the best around. No, it was only 
when it went on to claim for itself kingdom-significance as an object of Christian faith 
and hope-as a subunit, or authorized deputy, of the Arky of God-it was only then it 
became him an abomination of desolation. 

"I regard the 'political pastor' in any form as a mistake. But as a man and a citizen ... I 
take the side of the Social Democrats" ([1915] Busch, p. 88). He spoke of his "very 
limited interest in socialism. For the most part it was only practical [emphasis mine- 
VE]. But I was only marginally interested in socialist principles and ideology" ([1917] 
Busch, p. 104). (Spoken like a good Christian anarchist.) "Thou shalt not have your 
heart in your politics. Your souls are and remain alien to the ideals of the State" 
([1919] Hunsinger, p. 208). "[Let there be] strike, general strike, and street fighting if 
there must be, but no religious justification or glorification of them; ... military 
service as soldier or officer, if it must be, but on no condition as military chaplain;... 
social democratic but not religious socialist" ([1919] Hunsinger, p. 208). 

Those statements introduce a crucial idea, to be explored in depth in Chapter Seven. 
One must be entirely clear as to which actions are those of "a man and a citizen," 
done within the political horizon of cause-and-effect results calculated as sheerly 
human probabilities and possibilities— and which actions are those of "a Christian," 
done within the theological horizon of obedience to God and in the faith that he can 
use them as he will to produce the incalculable results of his grace and power. But 
just as soon as human, political arky of the one sphere tries to justify itself with 
religious, Christian pretensions from the other, it has usurped the place of God to 
become idolatrous. 

Barth's relationship to Religious Socialism came to a head when, in 1919, at 
Tambach, Germany, he addressed a conference of about a hundred religious- 
socialist leaders from Germany and Switzerland. The formal response to Barth's 
paper was made by one Eberhard Arnold, who observed that the lecture was "a 
rather complicated kind of machine that runs backwards and forwards and shoots in 
all directions with no lack of both visible and hidden joints" (Busch, p. 110). 



(Arnold could have been prophetic if had only gone on to say: "--which is just how an 
engine of Christian Anarchy should operate." Eberhard Arnold was himself within a 
year or so of founding that Christian community which has survived to the present 
day as the "Bruderhof" movement. In examining Arnold's own thought in the 
recently published anthology of his works- God's Revolution [Paulist Press, 1984]— it 
becomes apparent that he is Blumhardtian enough that any Christian Anarchy 
ascribed to Blumhardt would have to apply to Arnold as well. Yet it is Arnold who 
may take the prize as the very first person to use the term "anarchism" according to 
the exact definition and with the exact application we intend now. In the 
Introduction and Survey to his 1926 sourcebook-Tfte Early Christians [Baker, 1979]- 
he wrote: "At the same time, it was within the Church that monasticism once again 
achieved that radical 'anarchism' of faith responsible to God alone which had been 
alive in the beginning" [pp. 52-53].) 

In his Tambach address, then, Barth made 

a clear and fundamental distinction between Christ or the kingdom of God on the one hand 
and human actions, whether conservative or revolutionary, on the other. "The kingdom of 
God does not first begin with our movements of protest. It is the revolution which is before 
all revolutions, as it is before the whole prevailing order of things." In contrast to both 
conservatives and revolutionaries it is radically new, in such a way that says "no" to both of 
them-though in this "no" the one is qualified by a relative affirmation of the other. Thus on 
the one hand protest against the prevailing order of things is certainly part of the kingdom of 
God. But on the other hand Barth also reckoned with "parables of the kingdom of God," 
"analogies of the divine," on the earthly scene. And in any case he found himself compelled 
to dissociate himself from the danger which he now recognized as such, "of secularizing 
Christ" for the umpteenth time, e.g., today for the sake of democracy, or pacifism, or the 
youth movement, or something of the sort-as yesterday it would have been for the sake of 
liberal culture or our countries, Switzerland or Germany. (Busch, pp. 110-11) 

Take note, this early in Barth's development, of the positive references to "the 
parables of the kingdom of God" and "analogies of the divine" on the earthly scene. 
We will give them specific attention later-but they do not signify any change in his 
evaluation of human arky. 

g. Barth's first book-' 'Romans I." 'We just step backwards a year from the Stambach 

Conference to look at the publication of his first book in 1918. That study of Paul's Epistle to 
the Romans does not belong in the direct line of Barth's relationship to Religious Socialism; 
but it is a very dear statement of Christian Anarchy (with some insights we have not 
encountered earlier): 

All the Christian groups, trends, and "movements" of his time could not carry on as they 
were doing. [With them,] "everything had always already been settled without God... [which 
means that,] whatever ensues, it cannot be new action or aid on God's part. In the last 
resort it will prove to be a reform, or the old situation in a new guise. From God's standpoint 
that is more of a hindrance than a help, since it continues to delude people about the need 
for the coming of his kingdom. Our 'movements' then stand directly in the way of God's 



movement; our 'causes' hinder his cause; the richness of our 'life' hinders the tranquil 
growth of the divine life in the world.... The collapse of our cause must demonstrate once 
that God's cause is exclusively his own. That is where we stand today." (Busch, pp. 99-100) 

Men can never make "God's standpoint their own partisan standpoint" and therefore no 
individual or group simply stands on God's side over against others.... All human distinctions- 
-between the religious and the irreligious, the moral and the immoral-become relative.... 
The kingdom of God is not "a rebellion within the old aeon but the dawn of a new one"; it is 
not "a development within previous possibilities but the new possibility of life." Thus there is 
a clear distinction between this kingdom and all human attempts at reform.... But there is 
also a clear distinction between this kingdom and man's religious and moral possibilities: 
"they do not create anything new." (Busch, p. 100) 

h. Barth 's Discovery of Anarchist Kierkegaard. This input came at just the right time to give 
Barth a powerful confirmation of his own theological development. "[Kierkegaard] only 
entered my thinking seriously and more extensively, in 1919, at the critical turning-point 
between the first and second edition of my Romans.... What we [Barth and Thurneysen] 
found particularly attractive, delightful, and instructive was his inexorable criticism, which 
went on snipping and snipping. We saw him using it to attack all speculation which wiped 
out the infinite qualitative difference [my emphasis-VE] between God and man" (Busch, p. 
116). 

The two contributions for which Kierkegaard is credited are, of course, again the two 
sides of the one anarchical coin. The inexorable, critical, "cutting down to size" of the 
arkys (all arkys) is simply the necessary move in enabling the infinite qualitative 
distinction to stand tall and clear. Later, Barth will claim theologically to have moved 
away from Kierkegaard-though it can be debated endlessly as to whether that 
represented a real move or only a misunderstanding of Kierkegaard. In either case, it 
is plain that the two thinkers never were in disagreement on the points stated here. 

II. Romans 13 according to Barth's Romans II 
1. The Character of Romans II 

It was in 1920 that Barth decided that he needed to entirely rewrite Romans for its second 
edition of 1921. "Only now did my opposition to Schleiermacher become quite clear and 
open" (Busch, p. 114). In Romams II he wrote: "For this [Schleiermacherian] theology, to 
think of God meant to think in a scarcely veiled fashion about man-more exactly about the 
religious, the Christian religious man. To speak of God meant to speak in an exalted tone, 
but once and again and more than ever about this man-his revelations and wonders, his 
faith and his works [i.e., the potential of his arky power]. There is no question about it: here 
man was made great at the cost of God" (Busch, p. 119). (And consider now, more than sixty 
years later, just how completely modern theology is done in this Schleiermacherian mode.) 

So Busch characterizes Romans II by its "abundance of negative definitions (this is where the 
second edition of Romans differed from the first); [Barth] stressed that God could not be 



conceived of; that he was beyond this world, the wholly other" (Busch, p. 119). (It might 
lead one to suspect that Kierkegaard had a hand in Barth's decision to rewrite.) 

2. Barth's Treatment of Romans 13 

This book already has made it plain that, regarding a thinker's Christian Anarchy, his 
handling of Romans 13 (along with Mark 12) is the litmus test. And in being so tested, Barth 
gives us what must now be considered "a classic statement of Christian Anarchy." 

Clearly, what Barth sees as being his first order of business is the dissolving of all we 
customarily have accepted as being the natural continuity, affinity, or relatedness between 
the following "unpairs." There is no possibility of "bridging" between one element its 
counterpart: 

THEARKYOFGOD ALL HUMAN ARKY 

CHRISTIAN ANARCHY POLITICAL ANARCHISM 

GOD'S SOCIALISM POLITICAL SOCIALISM 

GOD'S REVOLUTION HUMAN REVOLUTIONS 



Some of these represent my terminology and some Barth's, yet the anarchical 
presupposition is the same in any case. 

Rather than "the Establishment vs. the Revolution" (our terminology of the previous 
chapter), Barth speaks of "the principle of legitimism vs. the principle of Revolution." Same 
difference. Barth, along with all Christian anarchists since Paul himself, is clear that the 
apostle has not the slightest desire to legitimate any human arky as being "of God" (perhaps 
the Roman arky least of all). Yet there was certainly no reason for Paul to hammer that 
point. After all, his readers were Christians living in Rome within recent memory the 
Emperor Claudius's having strong-armed and man-handled them a bit. Who there would 
feel any temptation to hallow Rome, of all arkys? 

No, Barth agrees with what we said earlier, that Paul (as also the case with Jesus and the 
tribute money) immediately is concerned to apply the anarchistic warning much more 
against Leftist revolution than against Rightist collaboration. Paul certainly has no interest in 
legitimizing Rome; but his particular concern is that his Christian readers not legitimate 
revolution against Rome, either. 

However, when it comes to the question as to why God wants a Roman Empire in place, 
why he wants it left there rather than being knocked out and replaced by a truly godly arky 
of the Christian revolutionaries, Barth offers a new interpretation. Our earlier suggestion 
was simply that God was "putting up with" the Roman empire out of his respect for human 
freedom-the freedom of allowing the world to be as sinful as it chooses to be. If God grants 
the Roman Empire the freedom to be whatever it has in mind for itself, who are we to try to 
deny it that freedom? 



But Barth comes at the question from an entirely different (and most intriguing) direction. 
He proposes that, in God's eyes, the Roman Empire of Paul's day-and thus any state, or in 
our parlance, any human arky-stands as a "sign" of God's own Arky (the kingdom of God). 

Hey, wait a minute! That's the liberal line-in fact, a gross extension of the liberal line. 
Liberals would say that only their holy leftist arkys are signs of God's Arky-not that rightist 
Roman arkys are, for goodness' sake. Barth's idea doesn't make any sense at all. He is 
actually 'pairing' the things he supposedly set out to 'unpair.'" 

That's what you heard, because you didn't let me finish what I was saying. Barth's 
understanding is that every human arky is intended by God as a NEGATIVE sign of his own 
Arky. He wants all those arkys in place to keep his people reminded that anything we have 
now is not yet the kingdom, that even the best of human arkys is no acceptable substitute 
for God's Arky. And come to think of it, the Roman Empire did serve God's purpose very well 
in that regard. The book of Revelation makes it clear that the early Christians owed it solely 
to the Roman Empire that they kept praying, "Come, Lord Jesus." The very presence of the 
empire added a certain fervency to that prayer. Thanks to the empire, among them, the 
kingdom of God became what might be called "a felt need." 

It was no accident that the church's taking that arky to its bosom as being the HOLY Roman 
Empire coincided in point of time with its ceasing to pray for the coming of the Lord Jesus. 
Once we get in with an arky that treats us all right and serves our own personal interests, 
we tend to lose all hunger for the Arky of God. We think a Holy Empire which befriends 
rather than persecutes the church is "good enough," "as much as can be hoped for"-no 
matter what it may be doing on other counts. Yet this experience is no indication that God's 
idea of "negative pairing" was a bad one but, rather, that we exercise our penchant for 
misusing every good thing (such as a bad arky) the Lord provides us. 

In this, the logic of Barth's thought might say that the worst arky (from our standpoint) is 
the best (for God's purposes). Yet this cannot be taken to mean that Christians ought to be 
out encouraging bad arkys for the sake of their spiritual benefit. The natural supply of bad 
arkys certainly is sufficient for our every need. And if we had our eyes open, we would see 
that even our best arkys are bad enough to leave the Arky of God a consummation devoutly 
to be wished. For Barth's "negative pairing" to drive us to God does not call us to do 
anything regarding the arkys, but only to clarify our own perceptions of them. Yet, by 
negatively pairing human arky and divine arky, Barth has gone beyond even the mere 
"unpairing" of them. Let's call this "anarchy-squared." 

(In their turn-not being as intellectually or theologically sophisticated as either Barth or 
Ellul— the sixteenth-century Anabaptists generally derived their Romans-13 anarchism by an 
argument different from either of these other two. Why does God want the arkys in place 
and forbid his people to try to overthrow or revamp them? The Anabaptists tended to latch 
onto Paul's observation about the arkys being a threat only to bad conduct and an 
instrument of God's punishment of evildoers. The argument then went that God's own 
people, the Christian believers, are not evildoers, that the arky license therefore does not 
extend to them, and thus they are anarchistically free from any arky power or authority. It 
did not necessarily nor even regularly do so, but this interpretation could lead to a certain 



disregard over whatever hurt the arkys might be inflicting on non-Christian "evildoers." 
Nonetheless, my perception is that, whether the exegesis be that of Ellul, Barth, or the 
Anabaptists, it all comes out at the same Christian Anarchy. Paul's text will support any of 
the three; each can be accepted as true; there is no need to chose between them.) 



Now, whether or not it proceeds from a common negative principle, Barth's proposal that 
God "negatively" correlates his Arky and human arky is paralleled by another. His new 
proposal is that Paul actually is counseling that our relationship to the arkys should take the 
form of what we "not do" concerning them rather than what we "do" do. This idea of 
"doing" God's will by a deliberate "not doing" that of the arkys can be very helpful in our 
reading of Romans 13. However, it will not work as a general principle that can be used 
independently of very careful attention to what the apostle actually says. The difficulty is 
that any command of either "doing" or "not-doing" can be worded the other way around 
and still mean the same thing. 

For instance, revolutionary civil disobedience and tax withholding could be thought of (and 
perhaps most often are) as belonging to the "not-doing" alternative, i.e., as being a defiant 
refusal to do what the civil-arky demands. By the same logic, Paul's "being subject to the 
authorities" would be seen as the "doing" alternative, the doing of whatever the state asks 
of you. Yet, in effect, Barth argues that Paul means things to be worded the other way 
around. 

Revolutionary civil disobedience and tax withholding are now the active and aggressive 
"doing" of entering the worldly contest with an offensive play (i.e., the political power of a 
good arky) intent to bring pressure against those arkys perceived to be evil. Conversely, for 
Paul, "being subject" is the Christian "not-doing." It is the not doing of any arky-style 
response, the not doing of rebellion and self-assertion. It is Paul's own "not being 
conformed to the world" and "not paying evil for evil." It is Jesus' "not resisting one who is 
evil." 

Paul, of course, is one who knew best that "being subject to the authorities" in no way 
threatens the prior principle that we must obey God rather than man. He had been in 
trouble with the law no telling how many times for not stopping preaching when the 
authorities had ordered him to. Yet, even when such obeying of God necessitates the 
disobeying of an arky, this is no abrogation of the principle of "being subject." It does not 
amount to a "doing" of revolt and contest. It probably shouldn't even be called "civil 
disobedience"-that term customarily denoting a disobedience for the sake of disobedience, 
as a political means of attacking the bad arky, challenging, protesting, provoking, and 
exposing its evil. No, in cases like Paul's refusal to stop preaching, the action is still a "not- 
doing" of revolution. The intent is entirely that of obeying God-it being entirely incidental 
that, unavoidably, the arky had to be disobeyed in the process. Indeed, the disobeyer can 
even remain entirely subject to the authorities by expressing regret that his obedience to 
God left him no recourse but to disobey the arky. 



Barth's distinction between "doing" and "not-doing" is admittedly a fine one-although not 
for that reason less true or less helpful in getting us to the heart of Romans 13. At which job 
we are now ready to let Barth speak for himself. 



We will follow Barth's exegesis but be free to supplement Romans quotations with 
quotations from elsewhere in Barth. We will find him confirming many of the anarchical 
observations made in previous chapters. (I know it can be questioned as to who is 
confirming whom. Granted, he had written long before the present book was even a gleam 
in its father's eye [or better / was even a gleam in my father's eye]; but I had not read until 
after my previous chapters were already in black and white.) 

Set not your mind on high things (Rom. 12:16)-and a "not-doing" counsel, notice. Regarding 
which, Barth says: 

Christianity does not set its mind on high things. It is uneasy when it hears men speaking loudly and 
with confidence about "creative evolution"; when it marks their plans for perfecting the 
development of pure and applied science, of art, of morals, and of religion, of physical and spiritual 
health, of welfare and well-being. Christianity is unhappy when men boast of the glories of marriage 
and family life, of Church and State, and Society. Christianity does not busy itself to support and 
underpin those many "ideals" by which men are deeply moved-individualism, collectivism, 
nationalism, internationalism, humanitarianism, eccelesiasticism.... In all these growing towers 
Christianity beholds at least a parable of death.... It finds itself unable to place serious confidence in 
the permanence of any of these "important" things, or in the value of any of these "values." 
Christianity perceives men moving, it is true, but moving to deprivation. (Romans, pp. 462-63) 

"Why, the man indiscriminately mixes good arkys and bad arkys as though they were all the 
same!" Yup, that's anarchy-although it is not that the arkys are all the same but that our 
hallowing of our "serious confidence in" them is. For instance, Barth, as we will discover, 
knows very well that Christianity sides with the poor and lowly. Yet, long before "liberation 
theology" was invented, he saw that even so worthy a concern easily could become 
"arkyized": "It may therefore be that those whom we think to be lowly have long ago 
become in fact exalted. It may be that their humility has been turned long ago to horrid 
pride. It may be that their ambiguity has been formed into an idol, and their 'brokenness' 
into some new popular theology" (Romans, p. 464). 

The root difficulty here is what we earlier identified as "zealotism," the unquestioned 
confidence that, in our perception of right and wrong, we are as much as infallible: 

[Man] is only a dilettante, a blunderer; in his attempt to distinguish between good and evil, right and 
wrong, acting as though he really has the capacity to do it.... Neither in his own cause nor in that of 
others can he be a wise and righteous judge. (Hunsinger; p. 165) 

In Genesis 3, the desire of man for a knowledge of good and evil is represented as an evil desire, 
indeed the one evil desire which is so characteristic and fatal for the whole race. (Hunsinger, p. 166) 



I am already choosing wrong when I think that I know and ought to decide what is right, and I am 
doing wrong when I try to accomplish that which I have chosen as right. I am already putting myself 
in the wrong with others, and doing them wrong, when-it makes no odds how gently or vigorously I 
do it— I confront them as the one who is right, wanting to break over them as the great crisis. 
(Hunsinger, p. 166) 

"Break over them as the great crisis"-which is to say, "force them to choose between what / 
present as the great options of Good and Evil." 

That to which Barth is objecting is that which is most characteristic of arky faith. Has he not 
here spotted the most fundamental (and most impositional) power of arkydom, namely, the 
power of knowing oneself to be an elect representative of "the right," asserting my strength 
as that often, because I know my heart is pure? And what virtue is so utterly lacking in the 
arkys as "humility"? Barth is even thoughtful enough to put the matter into the 
"absolutist/relativist" language of our previous chapter: 

Let us not deceive ourselves. Our conceits are haphazard. To this rule there are no exceptions.... 
[The] relativity of the ethics of grace is the axe laid at the root of our own haphazard conceits (Rom. 
11:25). The root from which our conceits spring, the secret which lies behind all human exultation, is 
disclosed in the persistent regularity with which men crown themselves with the security of some 
absolute answer. By putting an end to all absolute ethics, Christianity finally puts an end to all the 
triumph and sorrow that accompanies the occupation of any human eminence. {Romans, p. 466) 

Inevitably, then, our sense of absolute Tightness moves us to promote and enforce that 
righteousness: 

Am I also to take into my own hands the preservation of that right? ... Our determination to 
introduce the higher righteousness is precisely that which renders it altogether lost: For the wrath of 
God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). The wrath of God is 
revealed against human ungodliness in doing evil and in doing good; it is revealed against the enemy 
and against me, if I purpose to be the enemy of my enemy. This is the criticism of militarism, but it is, 
in passing, a criticism of pacifism also. But who among us does in fact leave room, not for the wrath 
of men, but for the wrath of God? Who among us does seriously reckon with the fact that human 
action will, not only here but everywhere, be driven off the field by the pre-eminent action of God? 
(Romans, p.473) 

Then, in a rather cryptic statement out of a quite cryptic passage, I think Barth picks up our 
idea about arkys using the unreality of collective solidarities to override the real individuality 
of sparrows and human beings. He is talking about "encountering the great positions of 
Church and State, of Law and Society" in which they claim to have all the answers. Then he 
says, "In all of them the plurality of individuals has been limited by the Whole" (Romans, p. 
477). 

As Barth moves into his central argument-that which says, in effect, that Christian Anarchy 
equally rejects both legitimism of the arkys and revolution against them, he claims to be 
following Paul in very unequally giving his attention to revolution. That takes some 



explaining which gets him to the very heart of his anarchical concern. We begin with some 
crucial statements from outside his Romans book: 

"The little revolutions and attacks by which [the powers of history] seem to be more shaken 
than they really are can never succeed even in limiting, let alone destroying, their power. It 
is the kingdom, the revolution of God, which breaks, which has already broken them. Jesus 
is their conqueror." (Hunsinger, pp. 90-91) 

"At this point there can be no reversal. The victory of Jesus Christ, and thus what can be 
called the victory of light over darkness, can never be inferred from any victories of 
humanity-never at any rate with real certainty." (Hunsinger, p. 94) 

Here and in the following is the idea we had in mind when presenting "God's 
Revolution/Human Revolutions" as one of the couples Barth was intent to "unpair." And in 
the above Barth is doing little more than quote Blumhardt. Back, then, to the Romans book: 

Why is it that we [with Paul and Jesus] have to watch so carefully the forces of revolution? Why are 
we not equally anxious about the manifest dangers of conservatism? ... We are anxious about the 
forces of revolution and not about the forces of conservatism, because it is most improbable that 
anyone will be won over to the cause of reaction-as a result of reading the Epistle to the Romans!... 

[Barth was addressing the liberal intelligentsia of the Continent and knew that none of them 
were candidates for conservative legitimism. Whether he considered that Romans 13-with 
its "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities"-could and often would be 
used as counsel of legitimism, we do not know. 

Even so, he is still correct: a fair reading of the entirety of Paul's "Epistle to the Romans" 
could never be made to serve "the cause of reaction." Barth continues:] 

"The revolutionary Titan is far more godless, far more dangerous, than his reactionary 
counterpart-because he is so much nearer the truth. To us, at least, the reactionary 
presents little danger; with his Red brother it is far otherwise" (Romans, p. 468). 

The phrase "Red brother" alerts us to when it was Barth wrote these words and introduces 
us to an intriguing aspect of his personal anarchism. Writing in 1920, Barth was in the 
atmosphere of the Bolshevik "socialist" revolution getting its regime into place-about the 
same time Walter Rauschenbusch was calling it the world's best hope for peace and 
brotherhood and Malcolm Muggeridge's friends were visiting Russia and being entranced. In 
calling the Red brother "so much nearer the truth" than the political conservatives, Barth is 
saying simply that the rhetorical line of the revolutionary Left always is superior to that of 
the Right. With its talk about freedom, justice, equality-about helping the poor and 
oppressed-it even sounds very much like Jesus. It is precisely in that similarity that the 
danger lies— the danger of our taking it for Jesus. 

In 1919, Barth "spoke about the Russian revolution, which he saw as an attempt which had 
to be made but was not to be imitated. He was also well aware of the problems in this 
attempt: violent revolution (which meant the establishment of the new society 'on the old 



foundations'), the exclusiveness of the working class (in contrast to the abolition of classes) 
[see Chapter Three], and minority rule ('the acknowledged shortcomings of democracy are 
not improved by its abolition')" (Busch, p. 106). 

It will become entirely plain that, throughout his life, Barth's own sociopolitical preference 
was that of "socialism." Yet already we have seen him repudiate Religious Socialism; now 
that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and yet to come the National Socialist 
German Workers Party (Nazism). Of course, he is aware of the moral distinctions between 
these different forms of socialism, but his repudiation of each is not based upon that 
assessment of relative morality. Fundamentally, each is equally out of order for being a 
human arky claiming messianic status for itself. So Barth's rejection of Soviet socialism is in 
no sense that of an ideologue who brands that arky as demonic in the effort to get his own 
preferred holy arky (say, capitalism) into its place. No, Barth is the Christian anarchist who is 
not about to legitimize Soviet socialism but who is not about to legitimize any other arky's 
fighting against it or trying to replace it, either. "Give to God what belongs to God." 

Years later, the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr-whose own arky faith always wanted 
him on board the arky "nearest the truth"-became highly incensed with what he saw as 
Barth's political flip-flopping. Yet right here in Romans II, we see the consistent (though 
anarchical) principle that makes sense of Barth: always warn against that arky nearest the 
truth, the one Christians will most be in danger of taking for the Arky of God. 

[The travesty of it all is] that men should, as a matter of course, claim to possess a higher right over 
their fellow men, that they should, as a matter of course, dare to regulate and predetermine almost 
all their conduct, that those who put forward such a manifestly fraudulent claim should be crowned 
with a halo of real power and should be capable of requiring obedience and sacrifice as though they 
had been invested with the authority of God, that the Many should conspire to speak as though they 
were the One, that a minority or a majority (even the supreme democratic majority of all against 
one) should assume that they are the community.... This whole pseudo-transcendence [claimed by] 
an altogether immanent order is the wound that is inflicted by every existing government-even by 
the best-upon those who are most delicately conscious of what is good and right. [Even so,] the 
more successfully the good and the right assume concrete form, the more they become evil and 

wong-summa jus, summa injuria If, for example, the Church of Calvin [for Barth, the nearest -to- 

the-truth church] were to be reformed and broadened out to be the Church of the League of 
Nations, this doing of the supreme right would become the supreme wrong-doing. (Romans, p. 479) 

Now that's anarchy (though I claim it would still be just as good anarchy even if Barth had 
put it into shorter and clearer sentences). 

From this perception of the evil that lies in the very existence of existing government, Revolution is 
born. The revolutionary seeks to be rid of the evil by bestirring himself to battle with it and to 
overthrow it. He determines to remove the existing ordinances, in order that he may erect in their 
place the new right.... The revolutionary must, however, own that in adopting his plan he allows 
himself to be overcome of evil (Rom. 12:21 [which is, by the way, another "not-doing" command]). 
He forgets that he is not the One, that he is not the subject [the creator] of the freedom which he so 
earnestly desires, that, for all the strange brightness of his eyes, he is not the Christ.... What man has 



the right to propound and represent the "New," whether it be a new age, or a new world, or a new 
... spirit? ... Far more than the conservative, the revolutionary is overcome of evil, because with his 
"No" he stands so strangely near to God. This is the tragedy of revolution. Evil is not the true answer 
to evil. [Romans, p.480) 

Overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). What can this mean but the end of the triumph of men, 
whether their triumph is celebrated in the existing order or by revolution? And how can this be 
represented, if it be not by some strange "not-doing" precisely where men feel themselves most 
powerfully called to action?... What more radical action can [one] perform than the action of turning 
back to the original root of "not-doing"-and NOT be angry, NOT engage in assault, NOT demolish? 
This turning back is the ethical factor in the command, Overcome evil with good. There is here no 
word of approval of the existing order; but there is endless disapproval of every enemy of it. It is God 
who wishes to be recognized as He that overcometh the unrighteousness of the existing order. 
[Romans, p.481) 

When an arky takes it upon itself to impose upon society what it chooses to call "God's 
good," it is being just as defiant of God as is the arky intent to do evil. 

Let every man be in subjection to the existing powers (Rom. 13:1). Though "subjection" may assume 
from time to time many various concrete forms, as an ethical conception it is here purely negative. It 
means to withdraw and make way; it means to have no resentment, and not to overthrow. Why, 
then, does not the rebel turn back and become no more a rebel? [I propose that the reading here 
must have intended: 'Is there, then, no reason for the rebel to turn back? Yes, there is; simply 
because....,'] Simply because the conflict in which he is immersed cannot be represented as a conflict 
between him and the existing ruling powers; it is, rather, a conflict of evil with evil. Even the most 
radical revolution can do no more than set what exists [namely, "a human reality"] against what 
exists. Even the most radical revolution-and this is so even when it is called a "spiritual" or 
"peaceful" revolution-can be no more than a revolt; that is to say, it is in itself simply a justification 
and confirmation of what already exists [namely, a sinful human arky we have chosen to absolutize 
as demonic and one we have chosen to absolutize as holy]. [Romans, pp.481-82) 

What, then, is the Christian to do about the arkys? 

It is evident that there can be no more devastating undermining of the existing order than the 
recognition of it which is here recommended, a recognition rid of all illusion and devoid of all the joy 
of triumph [i.e., a recognizing of them for what they are, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"]. 
State, Church, Society, Positive Right, Family, Organized Research, etc., etc., live off the credulity of 
those who have been nurtured upon vigorous sermons-delivered-on-the-field-of-battle and upon 
suchlike solemn humbug. Deprive them of their PATHOS, and they will be starved out; but stir up 
revolution against them, and their PATHOS is provided fresh fodder [Romans, p.483) 

Consider that this is another counsel of "not-doing": we are not to credit the arkys for what 
they present themselves as being. 

"To be in subjection /'s-when it is rightly understood-an action void of purpose, an action, 
that is to say, which can spring only from obedience to God" (Romans, p. 483). And it 



follows that, even if an action springing only from obedience to God happens in the process 
to involve disobedience to the existing arky, it still represents "being subject" and ought not 
be identified as a revolutionary action of "civil disobedience." 

Barth, then, makes his point about God's ordaining the arkys as "negative signs" of the 
kingdom: 

Is not, therefore, the exiting order a pregnant parable of the Order that does not [yet] exist? For the 
creature was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it in hope 
(Rom. 8:20).... But the existing order is justified against revolution precisely at this source; for here 
the demand is made that the revolutionary should not take the assault and judgment into his own 
hands, but rather should recognize that the evil of the existing order bears witness to the good, since 
it stands of necessity as an order contrasted [emphasis mine-VE] with THE Order. (Romans, p. 485) 

Vengeance belongeth unto me (Rom. 12:19). Our subjection means, therefore, no more than that 
vengeance is not our affair.... [That revolutionaries lay their hands] upon the sword of judgment 
cannot be excused on the ground that the power has already employed the same sword against 
them. That is its judgment, not their right. The moment when they rise up in protest is the moment 
when a protest must be directed against them: Wherein thou judgest the other, thou condemnest 
thyself; for thou that judgest dost practice the same things (Rom. 2:1). (Romans, p. 486) 

Regarding, then, the Christian who, in obedience to God, is "being subject to the existing 
ruling powers," Barth says: 

All unsuspecting, rulers rejoice over a citizen so remarkably well-behaved; but they are in fact 
rejoicing over one whose behavior [signifies nothing other than] the judgment of God [against the 
rulers themselves]-one who has so much to say that, [there being no point in doing so,] he no 
longer complains of them. And, in spite of the irony of his position, [the Christian] really does make a 
"good citizen," [in that] he has turned back to reality and is rid of all romanticism. Having freed 
himself of all idolatry, he does not need to engage himself in endless protestations against idols. Nor 
is he continually busying himself with pointing out the manifest inadequacy of each solution of the 
problem of life as it is propounded, of each form of government as it is erected, of each human road 
along which men propose to journey. And this is because he knows that the shadow of the judgment 
of God which spreads itself over them all is the shadow of righteousness. (Romans, pp. 487-88) 

The Christian doesn't have to fret and fight regarding every evil of the world, because he 
knows that all will be made right in God's good time and in God's good way. 

Calm reflection has thus been substituted for the convulsions of revolution-calm, because final 
assertions and final complaints have been ruled out, because a prudent reckoning with reality has 
outrun the insolence [about] "warfare between good and evil," and because an honest 
humanitarianism and a clear knowledge of the world recognize that the strange chess-board upon 
which men dare to experiment with men and against them-in State, Church, and Society-cannot be 
the scene of the conflict between the kingdom of God and Anti-Christ. (Romans, p. 489) 

On this board we make no move that is not met by some dangerous counter-move; no step that 
does not in some way have back at us; no possibility that does not contain its own impossibility. 



Whether we support or oppose the existing order, we stand on the same level with it, and are 
subjected to one condemnation. Occupying some position, positive or negative, on the plane of the 
existing order, we are bound to have to pay for the fact that all [positions] are relative.... The 
encroachment of revolution [God] meets with the sword of government; the encroachments of 
governments with the sword of revolution. And in the fate of both we behold our own destiny-in 
fear and in pity. The wrath of God falls upon all of us. Upon each one in some way or other the 
sword is drawn; and it is not drawn in vain. Whether we attempt to build up some positive human 
thing or to demolish what others have erected, all our endeavors to justify ourselves are in one way 
or another shattered in pieces. We must now assert that all these endeavors of ours not merely 
cannot be successful, but ought not be so. [Romans, p. 490) 

Finally, we get Barth's reading of Paul on a detail considered earlier: "For this cause ye pay 
tribute also (Rom. 13:6). Ye are paying taxes to the State. It is important, however, for you 
to know what ye are doing. Your action is, in fact, pregnant with 'not-doing,' with 
knowledge, with hope" (Romans, p. 491). 

That is to say, if you are paying those taxes as a "doing," as a positive legitimation of the 
state and its evil activity, you are wrong. If, the other way around, you are withholding those 
taxes as a "doing," as an act of protest and rebellion against the evil state, you are wrong 
again. "But what other option is there?" Perhaps the difficulty is that we have been stating 
the case wrongly. If Jesus is correct that Caesar's image on the coin is proof enough that it 
"belongs" to him, rather than saying that we do pay him taxes, wouldn't it be more correct 
to say that we do not try to stop him from collecting what belongs to him (a true case of 
"not-doing")? As Barth has it, "It is important for you to know what ye are doing [or, in this 
case, 'not-doing']." 

As we move on to the tracing of Barth's career, we jump backwards in his treatment of 
Romans-to pick up a statement made-to-order as our transition. When speaking of the 
human world as a strange chessboard which cannot be the scene of the conflict between 
the Kingdom of God and Anti-Christ, he continued: "A political career, for example, becomes 
possible only when it is seen to be essentially a game; that is to say, when we are unable to 
speak of absolute political right, when the note of 'absoluteness' has vanished from both 
thesis and antithesis [i.e., both our position and that of our opponents], and when room has 
perhaps been made for that relative moderateness or for that relative radicalism in which 
human possibilities [regarding absolute right and wrong] have been renounced (Romans, p. 
489). 

3. Barth's Own Retrospective View of Romans II 

A common explanation has been that, subsequent to 1921, Barth rather quickly moved 
beyond and away from his position of Romans II, into a new and different theology. We 
would do well to hear what he has to say on that point. 

In 1954, he described his 1921 "dialectical theology" in these terms: 

This theology has aptly been called a "theology of the Word"; the term "dialectical theology" is less 
apt, but it does describe its characteristic thought-forms.... "In contrast to the historical and 



psychological account which the 'religious man' tended to give of himself at the beginning of the 
century," the characteristic feature of this theology was "its question about the superior, new 
element which limits and determines any human self-understanding. In the Bible this is called God, 
God's word, God's revelation, God's kingdom, and God's act. The adjective "dialectical" describes a 
way of thinking arising from man's conversation with the sovereign God who encounters him." 
(Busch, p. 144) 

In 1961, he opened by quoting a line from Romans II: 

"Christianity that is not eschatology, utterly and without remainder, has absolutely nothing to do 
with Christ." Well roared, lion! ... I still think that I was ten times more right than those against 
whom my remarks were directed.... My remarks at the time were rash ... but not because of their 
content. It was because they were not matched by others equally sharp and direct to compensate 
for their total claim. (Busch, p. 120) 

What he needed to do-and proceeded to do-was make his "dialectical theology" truly 
dialectical. 

He thought that there was not a "new Barth," "as many people have hastily assumed today." "But it 
is true that I have learnt some things on the way. At least I hope so.... While once man apparently 
had no place in my theology, I think over the years I have learned to speak of God the Creator and 
his relationship with man as his creature in a way which allows man a greater prominence.... I do not 
think that I have forgotten and denied anything of what I learned and put forward earlier. But I think 
that in thinking and speaking about the great cause of God and man I have become more peaceful 
and happier than I could be when I was arguing fiercely against the attitudes current at that time." 
([1956] Busch, p. 418) 

"A genuine revision does not amount to a retreat after second thoughts; it is a new advance and 
attack in which what was said before has to be said again, but in a better way." Barth certainly did 
not want to retract ... the recognition that God is God. ([1956] Busch, pp. 423-24) 

We need to see how Barth manages to better "dialecticize" the God/man relationship and 
give man more prominence-yet without at all compromising either his "wholly-othemess of 
God" or his "Christian Anarchy" (indeed, actually enhancing both). Recall that, as early as 
the Tambach Conference of 1919, he had spoken of "parables of the kingdom of God" and 
"divine analogies" that appear on the earthly scene. In 1955, he was ready even to say: 

In the form in which she exists among them [the church] can and must be to the world of men 
around her a reminder of the justice of the kingdom of God already established on earth in Jesus 
Christ, and a promise of its future manifestation. De facto, whether they realize it or not, she can and 
should show them that there already exists on earth an order based on that great transformation of 
the human situation and directed toward its manifestation. To those outside she can and should not 
only say, but demonstrate by deed, ... that things can be different, not merely in heaven but on 
earth, not just some day but even now. (Hunsinger, pp. 89-90) 



This easily could be read as Barth's backing off from his earlier "wholly otherness" of God. 
Yet we heard him insist that the forming of a dialectic-\et's call this one a dialectic tension 
between "the glory of God's wholly-otherness" and what Kierkegaard calls "the glory of our 
common humanity"-that the forming of the dialectic in no way marks a repudiation (or 
even de-emphasizing) of either truth. Consequently, the "glory" of our humanity cannot be 
a glory of the same quality as the "glory" of God, thus putting our glory into competition 
with his, making us "like God" (which, recall, was serpent's line in Genesis 3). Indeed, it is 
just here that the principalities and powers of human arkydom are disallowed-for claiming 
a glory competitive with that of God. 

No, it is Kierkegaard who dialecticizes the matter best-doing it throughout that major part 
of his writings he calls "discourses" (better: "biblical meditations") and especially in the two 
entitled "The Glory of Our Common Humanity" and "Man's Need of God Constitutes His 
Highest Perfection." The glory of the human, he tells us, lies, not in our being "like God," but 
in our "imaging" of him, being in his image-a relationship of correspondence rather than 
competition. 

As Kierkegaard once put it: with a ship in the water, its reflection appears to extend 
precisely as far below the surface as the ship itself stands above it. The "glory" of our 
humanity is a "reflected glory" that can worship God in a way truly corresponding to his 
"glory." Rather than a glory that challenges or threatens God's "wholly otherness," 
humanity's is the glory of confessing, praising, and reflecting that very otherness. Or let me 
try an illustration of my own: A clever cyclist invents and builds for himself a wonderfully 
new sort of bicycle. Yet certainly, the "glory" of that machine is not meant to be apparent 
simply in looking at and examining the bicycle itself. No, its true glory is manifest only with 
the rider aboard, showing what it can do (actually, what he can do on it). Man's is, indeed, a 
true glory-yet always very much of a reflected one. (And by the way, had not the necessity 
for polemics lain so heavily upon Barth at the time, either his mentor Blumhardt or 
Kierkegaard could have taught him this dialectic from the outset.) 

Yet regarding Barth's passage about the church being a sign of the kingdom, the question 
must be put as to what "church" he had in mind. All the way through, he lumps in "church"- 
along with "State," "Society," and other such arkys-often enough to make it plain that the 
church he here "pairs" with the kingdom cannot be the arky church, that church which sees 
itself primarily as a sociopolitical entity and considers its greatest contribution to be its holy 
power-bloc influence in the world of arkydom. No, what Barth has in mind must be the 
anarchical church, what we have called the ekklesia- the community of gathered saints who 
strive in themselves to live out the arky of God but who have no interest in trying to impose 
that or any other order on the world about them. 

Indeed, it is as much as incredible to find this noted cleric of the established Church of 
Calvin opposing that very church's arkydom on so many fronts: denying the validity of 
"episcopal or synodical authority"; of infant baptism; of anything the church calls 
"sacrament"; of formal liturgy; of houses of worship which incorporate "pictorial and 
symbolic representations" or pipe organs (cf. Busch, pp.320, 329, 343, 399, 428, 444, 474). If 
any church is "a sign of the kingdom," it clearly is not through any features of this sort. Just 



as much as if he were an Anabaptist, Barth's Christan Anarchy applies to the church as to 
any other arky. 

There is, then, one other specification I think Barth would have wanted to make: As he says, 
even now churches (better: e/c/c/es/'a-communities) can perform as signs, witnesses, and 
presentiments of God's coming kingdom. Yet that depends entirely upon God's gracious 
choice and empowerment of the community rather than the community's desire to qualify 
itself for the role. So, as soon any group presumes to claim and to name itself as a sign of 
the kingdom-this, then, as an excuse to pull rank and start foisting its ideas of holiness upon 
the world-at that point we are on the way to Holy Roman Empires, the Crusades, and all 
manner of clearly negative signs. No, the last thing a true kingdom-sign community will do is 
to recognize itself, nominate itself, or promote itself under that identity. "Then the 
righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see ourselves as, or program ourselves to be, 
a sign of any kingdom?'" "Signs of the kingdom" give the glory to God rather than claiming it 
for themselves. 

In time, then, Barth came to realize that his original "wholly-otherness of God" needed to be 
balanced up by "the glory of our common humanity." But this did not affect his Christian 
Anarchy. It is true, of course, that Christian Anarchy involves a putting down of human 
pretension-but not by that token a putting down of the truly human. Quite the contrary, 
Christian Anarchy is dedicated precisely to the liberation of the truly human-i.e., God's 
freeing it by putting down the enslaving principalities and powers. 

III. Barth as a German 

Professorships at Gottingen, Munster, and Bonn (1921-35) 

In 1921, with the publication of Romans II, there came also the call for Barth to leave the 
pastorate and assume a professorship in Germany. A detail it will be important for us to 
remember is that, on the Continent, university professors are actually civil servants. This 
connection, in 1926, led to Barth's taking on German citizenship— in addition to his native 
Swiss citizenship. Throughout the period we are now to consider he is essentially a German- 
-which period will end with his leaving Germany to spend the rest of his life as a Swiss 
professor. 

1. New Development of Old Themes 

Under this head, we will simply establish the continuity of Barth's thought by seeing him add 
insight to what he has said before. 

The Pastoral Orientation of Theology. "One can ... say that to ground theology in the church 
and especially in the work of the pastor and make it relevant is a characteristic of the whole 
theological renewal movement" ([1922] Busch, pp. 136-137). 

The New View of the Bible. Barth is insistent in correcting the "liberal" use of Scripture: 
"Barth contrasted his view of the Bible as evidence of the concrete revelation of God with 
the view of the Bible as a general religious document" ([1922] Busch, p. 134). "The Bible, an 



earthly, human book, is a witness to revelation and thus itself the Word of God. So it is not 
merely a source of Christian knowledge, but its critical norm" ([1923] Busch, p. 161). 

Barthian vs. Bultmannian "Eschatology." Rudolf Bultmann's own "eschatology" had him 
wanting to talk about "last things"-by which he meant the ultimate issues of life the 
religious individual must face in his own experience and regarding which he must make 
momentous decisions (i.e., momentous for his own existence as a person). Bultmann asked 
Barth how he understood "eschatology"; and Barth responded that eschatology had to 
involve an actual transformation of the whole world order: "He only speaks of last things 
who would speak of the end of all things, ... of a reality so radically superior to all things that 
the existence of all things would be wholly and utterly grounded in it and in it alone; i.e., he 
would speak of their end which in truth would be none other than their beginning" ([1924] 
Busch, p. 149). Notice that only a Barthian eschatology will do for Christian Anarchy; the 
Bultmannian variety has no way of even recognizing the objective, historical existence of 
principalities and powers-let alone their being overcome by a kingdom of God. 

Yet Barth also wants to say how essential eschatology is to the full revelation of God and 
how relevant it is to the Christian life here and now: 

"Because it speaks of the boundary, of the end, Christian eschatology is fundamentally conscious of 
saying things which only God can say directly as they are [i.e., human wisdom and invention are of 
no help here]." Thus, "its object is not the future [perse] but the ONE [caps mine-VE] who is to 
come.... Christian eschatology is not interested in the last things for their own sake.... The revelation 
which constitutes the Word of God is itself eschatological.... Christian eschatology is no idle 
knowledge"; it has the character of a claim to faith and obedience which directs itself specifically to 
man." ([1925] Busch, p. 166) 

2. The Fight against "Natural Theology" 

During the period now under consideration, we find Barth making a change of terminology 
and something of a change of emphasis-yet actually intensifying the earlier polemic. Rather 
than speaking so much of the wholly-otherness of God, he now turns his fire on the 
falseness of the man-centered theology which the wholly-otherness of God was meant to 
correct. No longer is the term "NeoProtestant" much used to identify that false theology; 
"natural theology" takes over as a more general, more inclusive, and more accurate 
identification. It covers any variety of thought proposing that-outside and independent of 
God's special revelation to us through Jesus Christ and recorded in Scripture-there are 
"natural" affinities and connections giving man sufficient access to the divine that he can 
come to know God on his own. Man, now, does not live to wait for God to reveal himself; he 
has his own means for initiating encounter. 

Picking up from where we left Barth, he is now willing to concede that there are signs of the 
kingdom on the human scene-but he will not budge an inch toward making these the seed 
of a natural theology: "[Barth] could say that 'the work of culture ... can be like a parable.... 
It can be a reflection from the light of men the eternal logos who became flesh.... [But] the 
hope of the church rests on God for man; it does not rest on men, not even on religious 
men-and not even on the belief that men with God's fre/p will eventually build and 



complete that tower (of Babel)"' [1926] Busch, p. 171). In the same address from which 
these lines were taken, Barth also said that this address represents "a rather different view" 
from what he had expressed at Tambach seven years earlier. I suggest that it is not actually 
as different as it sounds; the basic Christian Anarchy, the complete disallowance of any sort 
of arky faith, is fully preserved. 

Schleiermacher Is Still the Villain. "[Barth] saw the theology of Schleiermacher as an attempt 
to make 'religion, revelation, and relations between God and man comprehensible as a 
predicate of man.... [The secret now is] that theology had long since become anthropology'" 
([1926] Busch, p. 169). "[Schleiermacher] was seen [by Barth] as the representative of a 
theology in which 'man is left master of the field insofar as he alone has become the subject, 
while Christ is his predicate'" ([1933] Busch, p. 221). 

The Arky Faith of Natural Theology Must Collapse. It is still the preached message in the life 
of the congregation that is at issue: "Christian preaching is a proclamation 'of the mighty 
acts of God' and not 'a proclamation of the acts and works of man'" ([1927] Busch, p. 176). 
'"From a man's point of view, in its decisive act, faith [emphasis mine-VE] is the collapse of 
every effort of his own capacity and will and the recognition of the absolute necessity of 
that collapse. When a man sees the other aspect, [namely,] that when he is lost he is 
justified [emphasis mine-VE] ... he sees himself from God's point of view.' But 'this 
righteouness does not become a psychological capacity; it remains in God's hand", ([1917] 
Busch, p. 172). 

Along with "Natural Theology, " "Natural Ethics" Must Go. This subpoint calls for special 
notice in that "Christian ethics" is probably the area of theology done in the greatest 
disregard of God and his word, done sheerly as human calculations of what is right or 
wrong, good or evil. But Barth says, '"Ethics, too, is concerned with reflection on the Word 
of God'-and 'especially with the reflection on the claim that this Word of God makes on 
man.'... 'What is good?' 'Man acts well in so far as he acts as one who has heard the Word of 
God, and obedience is good"' ([1927] Busch, p. 182). 

The Secret Battle against Natural Theology. In 1931, Barth published his most off-beat book- 
-a study of the medieval Catholic theologian, St. Anselm-from which he proceeded directly 
to begin his gargantuan Church Dogmatics. Roman Catholic scholars in particular had 
trouble accepting Barth's book as an accurate understanding of what Anselm was taking 
about. Barth responded that he didn't really care whether he had Anselm right or not -what 
he wanted was for people to understand what he was talking about. 

My interest in Anselm was never a side-issue for me. On the contrary, whether my historical 
interpretation of the saint was right or not, I took him very much to heart.... Most commentators 
have completely failed to see that this Anselm book is a vital key, if not the key, to understanding the 
process of thought that has impressed me more and more in my Church Dogmatics as the only one 
proper for theology. (Busch, p. 210) 

Just what is that key? This: "[freeing my thought] 'from the last remnants of a philosophical 
or anthropological ... justification and explanation of Christian doctrine....' The book on 
Anselm of Canterbury's proof for the existence of God ... I think I wrote with more loving 



care than any other of my books and ... it has been read the least of all my books'" (Busch, p. 
206). In effect, the Anselm book and the whole of the Church Dogmatics were dedicated to 
the absolute elimination of arky faith and any vestige of natural theology. 

What the "Nein" to Brunner Cost Barth. From the public view, this 1934 pamphlet was 
Barth's strongest blast against natural theology. It had to be the costliest and most painful 
to Barth from a personal standpoint. He certainly realized that, of all the "name" 
theologians of the era, his Swiss compatriot, biblically committed colleague, and fellow 
Blumhardtian Emil Brunner was the one whose thought stood closest to his own. Yet he 
publicly humiliated Brunner with "an out-spoken piece of polemic." And why? "[Because] 
Brunner had put forward the argument that 'the task of our theological generation is to find 
a way back to a legitimate natural theology'" (Busch, p. 248). Obviously, for Barth, what was 
at stake was not simply a point of intellectual, theological argument but the very truth of 
the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Analogia Entis as the Catholic Form of the Heresy. Barth had to fight his war against natural 
theology on (at least) two fronts at the same time. Yet the Catholic front opened up long 
after the Protestant-only in the early 'thirties. The Catholic doctrine of analogia entis 
(analogy of "being") proposes that God's divine nature and our human nature each include 
qualities of "being" analogous (similar) enough to make them mutually attracting. Thus, 
naturally, our human "being" rises to meet God even as God's divine "being" comes meet 
us— plainly a "like God" relationship rather than a "correspondent image" one. "I regard the 
analogia entis as the invention Anti-Christ, and I believe that because of it one cannot 
become a Catholic" ([1931-32] Busch, p. 215). 

Without using the term, Barth hangs the idea upon Augustine: 

Augustine is "the classic representative of the Catholic view ... that there is a continuity between 
God and man which is to be thought of as originating from man's side and which constantly 
threatens to make man his own creator and reconciler." [In Barth's view, however;] Because the 
connection between God and man-which also exists from man's side-is an "event" in the Holy Spirit 
and only in him (that is, only as a gift of God), there is no connection apart from this "evenf'-either 
before, as an innate property, or afterwards, as the product of some "infusion." ([1929] Busch, p. 
188) 

[Barth] thought that there was probably an analogy, a point of correspondence, between God and 
man, by virtue of which man is "capable" of knowing God. But ... this "point of correspondence" is 
not given to man by nature, by virtue of his situation, ontologically. It will, however, be given to him 
in faith (analogia fidei) since the only possibility of knowing God and his Word is to be found in the 
Word itself. ([1931-32], Busch, p. 116) 

"Analogy of faith" suggests that it is only God's faithfulness to us that creates in us a faith" 
correspondent to it. 



3. Joining the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) 

Our attention now turns from the theological side of Barth's Christian Anarchy to its political 
side, from theory to praxis. Recall from his first period that Barth treated his membership 
with Religious Socialism in a most anarchical way, as a peripheral matter in which he was 
every bit as quick to criticize the party as to support it. At that time, also, we heard him 
warn that we dare not put our "hearts" into our politics; that our political careers must be 
treated as "a game"; and that, above all, we dare never use "God" (i.e., religion, theology, 
Christianity) as justification or support for what are actually our own political, human-arky 
ideas. In his political involvements now to be described, Barth will continue to be entirely 
consistent with these principles of Christian Anarchy. 

It was in 1932, as a full-fledged German citizen, Barth took out membership in the German 
Social Democratic Party (SPD). At about the same time, he made an important statement 
regarding the church's involvement in politics: "The proclamation of the church is by nature 
political in so far as it has to ask the pagan polis to remedy its state of disorder and make 
justice a reality. This proclamation is good when it presents the specific commandment of 
God, and is not good when it puts forward the abstract truth of a political ideology" ([1932] 
Busch, p. 216). The church can (and should) speak Scripture to the state; but once the 
church starts identifying itself with the arkys of particular political philosophies and cause 
groups, that is bad. 

The true significance of Barth's taking SPD membership becomes apparent only when we 
are aware of the general political situation in the Germany of that day. The following is 
Barth's retrospective description of what he saw as early as 1926: 

I also saw and heard the so-called "German nationals" of the time-in my memory the most 
undesirable of all God's creatures whom I have ever met.... With their inflammatory speaches they 
probably made the greatest contributions towards filling to the uttermost a cup of wrath which was 
then poured out on the German nation over the next two decades. ([1947) Busch, p. 189) 

"German Nationalism," of course, is what in time will lead to the horrors of Nazism. Yet that 
which Barth here finds so offensive cannot be those horrors-which haven't surfaced yet. 
No, what incenses Barth is the blatant pretension that the Germanic spirit (culture, 
nationalism, and blood) qualifies as God's holy, messianic arky for the saving of the world. 
But at the time Barth joins it, the SPD is clearly the "opposition party," the minority party 
standing as an alternative to the rising National Socialism of the Nazis. Barth's choice is a 
deliberate act of refusing to legitimize Nazism. Yet as a true Christian anarchist, he isn't 
going to stoop to the level of trying to fight or subvert the Nazis, either. He will concentrate, 
rather; on giving to God what belongs to God. 

Barth explained in a letter to Paul Tillich: 

Membership in the SPD does not mean for me a confession to the idea and world view of socialism. 
According to my understanding of the exclusivity of the Christian confession of faith, I can "confess" 
myself neither to an idea nor to a world view in any serious sense. Hence I also have no necessary 
intrinsic relation to "Marxism" as such.... As an idea and world view, I can bring to it neither fear nor 



love nor trust. Membership in the SPD means for me simply a practical political decision.... I saw 
[the] requirements for a healthy politics fulfilled in, and only in, the SPD. Therefore, I choose this 
party. (Hunsinger, p. 116) 

Barth does his politics as a "not-doing" of politics; he shows nothing of arky faith, the 
messianic "gung-ho here we go" zealotism that marks normal politicking. He joins the party, 
rather, as an anarchist with no illusions about the holiness of the arky; no talk about God's 
leading him to join; no implication that all good Christians should be there with him; no talk 
of serving God's kingdom through party; no dreams of the party's accomplishing "the victory 
of Good in the world." 

By March 1933, the Nazis held enough power that it could mean trouble for government 
employees (including university faculty members) to be known as SPD members. In that 
situation, the party itself recommended that, rather than jeopardizing their posts, SPD 
faculty members simply resign their party membership and continue their activity in private. 
Ti Mich accepted this as a good idea; but Barth would have none of it. For him, this was the 
very time not to back down on one's formal, public commitment. "Anyone who does not 
want me like this cannot have me at all" (Busch, p. 225). 

Without any hint of defiance, Barth straightway communicated his decision to the proper 
official, the Prussian Minister of Cultural Affairs, asking whether, as a SPD member; he 
would be allowed to continue his teaching for the summer term. The minister gave 
permission-on the condition that there would be no "formation of cells." However, in June, 
before the summer was well underway, the SPD was disbanded and prohibited nationwide. 
At this point the administrative head of the university asked Barth how he saw his 
relationship to the SPD. "I said: 'I have arranged things with the Minister himself.' So 
perhaps I was in fact the last member of the SPD in the Third Reich" (Busch, p. 225). 

Notice, Barth was not about to let himself be pushed around; he was adamant against doing 
anything that could possibly be interpreted as a legitimizing of German Nationalism. Yet, the 
very figure of courtesy and propriety, he is just as careful not to be guilty of defiance, rage, 
condemnation, and rebellion against the established arky, either. His stance can be typified 
as nothing other than "anarchical." 

4. The Nazis Bust the Professor 

Hitler's take-over of January 30, 1933, caught Barth in bed with the flu; but he knew 
immediately "where I stood and what I could not do. In the last resort, this was simply 
because I saw my dear German people beginning to worship a false god" (Busch, p. 223). 
Barth realized that the quick and easy capitulation of the German people-including many 
even of his faculty colleagues and former students-was owing to the fact that the church 
had for so long been buying into whatever cultural or political arky made messianic noises 
that it saw this as just one more instance of the same. "It transpired that 'over the centuries 
the Protestant church had in fact been "assimilated" as a result of all kinds of other less 
ostentatious and aggressive alien pressures to such a degree that it simply could not 
repudiate [emphasis mine— VE], promptly and confidently, the crude assumption that the 
church, its message, and its life could be "assimilated" into the National Socialist State'" 



(Busch, p. 223). Notice, then, that Barth's own "resistance" to the State is not at all an 
"attack" upon it but simply the refusal to "assimilate" or "legitimize." 

But what, then, is Barth (or any Christian) to do in the face of such monstrous evil? He 
speaks as a true Christian anarchist: "His 'first priority' ... [was] to urge the students for 
whom I was responsible to keep on working as normally as possible in the midst of the 
general uproar, ... to maintain the biblical gospel in the face of the new regime and the 
ideology which had now become predominant'" (Busch, p. 224). The theological task of 
preserving the biblical gospel from ideological take-over is much more important to the 
course of history than is the political effort to destroy Hitler's regime. 

Barth's first eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with that regime came with the directive that 
all university classes were to open with the Hitler salute. Barth's never did. As he explained 
to the administration, he had understood it as being a "recommendation" rather than an 
"order." Besides, it was his custom to open class with a hymn and prayer-and the Hitler 
salute didn't seem to quite fit. The administration decided not to make an issue of the 
matter; and Barth carried the day on that one (Busch, p. 242). 

On the next go-around, Barth was not so fortunate. The university prescribed an "oath of 
loyalty to the Fuhrer." And was our professor so defiant as to refuse? Of course not! 
"Granted, 'I did not refuse to give the official oath, but I stipulated an addition to the effect 
that I could be loyal to the Fuhrer only within my responsibilities as an Evangelical 
Christian'" (Busch, p. 255). However, apparently Der Fuhrer didn't find this loyalty quite 
enough. Immediately suspended from teaching, by 1935 Barth was permanently "busted" 
from the university and had moved (he would hardly say "fled") back to Switizerland to 
finish his career there. 

With neither the salute nor the loyalty oath can Barth be said to have practiced "civil 
disobedience" (in the sense of Chapter Eight here following). He did not stage his 
disobedience as a calculated political power-play. He made no effort to organize his own 
ideological bloc to contest that of the evil regime. He did not play up to the media as a form 
of public demonstration, protest, or witness. He exhibited no rage toward nor 
condemnation of his adversary. He refused to treat the State as "enemy." He was intent 
only to give to God what belongs to God. And in doing that, he was careful to tread the fine, 
anarchical line between legitimizing the establishment the one hand and legitimizing 
revolution against it on the other. 

4. The Barmen Declaration and the Confessing Church 

We must back up to 1933 before moving forward again with this line of development. But 
Karl Barth was the central figure in the interdenominational church "struggle" that came to 
be identified as the Confessing Church; he was himself the main author of its constituting 
Barmen Declaration. 

At the outset, Barth established the guideline that the church stick to theology and not 
politics: "I cannot see anything in German Christianity but the last, fullest, and worst 
monstrosity of Neo-Protestantism" (Busch, p. 230). The problem is essentially a theological 



one; the answer to it must be essentially theological as well. "Barth began by declaring that 
at this very moment it was important to do 'theology and only theology' --'as though nothing 
had happened. This, too, is an attitude to adopt ... and indirectly it is even a political 
attitude'" (Busch, p. 226). Just so; it is the politics of "not-doing politics"-which, by the way, 
the Nazis found most difficult to handle. Regarding "straight politics," they knew just what 
to do and could counter every move, but "Barthian not-doing politics" had them out of their 
field. How does one counter that? This Christian Anarchy business is a real pain! 

"Above all, [Barth] warned against mere church-political tactics: 'We must be men who 
believe [my emphasis-VE], first and last. That-and nothing else'" (Busch, p. 231). And when 
a visitor asked how the American churches could help, "Barth emphasized that the Anglo- 
Saxon churches should now support the Confessing Church in one way and only in one way, 
by showing theological solidarity with its struggle against [not the Nazis but] natural 
theology [emphasis mine-VE]" (Busch, p. 231). 

Then, regarding the 1934 Barmen paper: 

An important clause in the declaration stated that the "real problem" of the present was not [my 
emphasis-VE] "how one could get rid of the German Christian nonsense, if that was God's will-but 
how it was possible to form a front against the error which had devastated the Evangelical Church 
for centuries," ... namely the view that "alongside God's revelation, ... man also has a legitimate 
authority of his own over the message and form of the church." (Busch, p. 236) 

Well then, was the Confessing Church a "resistance movement"? Yes indeed, one of the 
best-as long as Karl Barth was running it and as long as the "resistance" was that of 
Christian Anarchy rather than "holy arky power play." 

IV. From the Demonic Man to the Royal Man 

From Hitler to Barth's Treatment of Jesus (1939-55) 

The war against Hitler marked a decisive turn in Barth's thought. We now start with that and 
run our survey up to the writing of his second classic presentation of Christian Anarchy, the 
Royal Man passage of 1955. 

1. Barth's (Momentary) Fall from Anarchy: World War II 

I consider Barth's role in the fight against Hitler to mark a serious defection from his own 
understanding of Christian Anarchy. He started out well enough: "I considered my most 
immediate and important duty to play my part in seeing that theology should be carried on, 
thoroughly and 'as if nothing had happened,' in at least one place in an insane Europe--in 
our Swiss island" (Busch, p. 299). But he was not able to hold that course. It must be said 
that he did rather quickly recover himself-which has the effect of making the episode all the 
more instructive for its contrast to both the "before" and the "after" Barth. Our 
comprehension of Christian Anarchy will be enhanced in here seeing what it is not. 

To my mind, Barth's defection came-not so much in his resort to violence-but in his 
mounting a Christian rationale and justification for the same. This, from the man who had 



been so consistently opposed to allowing any political, human arky to claim Christian, 
theological standing. I propose that Jacques Ellul (in his book, Wo/ence— with the subsequent 
"rectification" in Christianity & Crisis, Oct. 19, 1970, p. 221) offers us the best framework in 
which to evaluate Barth's actions. 

Within the horizon of political ocf/Wfy— limited to human actions that can be calculated to 
produce particular cause-and-effect results according to sheerly human probabilities and 
possibilities— within this sphere, Ellul suggests, it does seem to be the case that situations 
arise in which violence shows up as inevitable and necessary. The "pacifists" who, still from 
entirely within this horizon, argue that there can never arise a dilemma which does not 
include the option of a workable, humanly practical, nonviolent solution-these people are 
Utopians, showing no sense of political realism at all. Of course, no one is saying that every 
instance of human violence has been or is necessary; that leaves all sorts of room for 
political peacemaking to quell a great deal of our violence. Nevertheless, Ellul would seem 
to be correct that there are situations in which violence is necessary; in which we have no 
other choice; in which, therefore, voilence is politically justified. The political distinction 
between "necessary and unnecessary wars"-"just and unjust wars"-is absolutely essential 
if we are to make moral judgments in the matter at all. 

However, politically justified is NOT to say Christianly justified. Christians, of course, know 
that the political horizon is not the final limit of reality. That limit (if as "limit" it should be 
thought of) certainly opens out to include God and all of God's possibilities-even to the 
point of resurrection from the dead, the kingdom, and all kingdom possibilities. From out of 
this larger sphere, for anyone to say that violence is necessary is nothing short of 
blasphemy-a suggestion that God himself is under the same constraints of necessity we are, 
that violence is something even he has not the wherewithal to avoid. For that matter, Ellul 
suggests, God has given us Jesus Christ for the very purpose of freeing us from all human 
necessity-the necessities of sin, greed, hard-heartedness, self-centeredness, violence, and 
what all. What is necessarily necessary within the horizon of human politics becomes totally 
unnecessary once the God-possibilities are taken into account. Christianly, then, violence is 
never justified-though Christians can, of course, still recognize the relative political justice 
and injustice of different wars and conflicts. 

So, Ellul concludes, whenever Christians support or participate in violence, what this 
indicates is that-for at least that moment, in that action-they have had a failure of faith; 
have not truly trusted in God and his possibilities; have forgotten their freedom in Christ, 
rather to slide back into the realm of necessity, taking the political limit for the actual limit 
of reality. For such a lapse-as for any other-there is, of course, forgiveness; yet any 
Christian capitulation to the necessity of violence is a denial of the freeing work of Jesus 
Christ and consequently a sin. 

I consider it indisputable that Karl Barth knew all this and could have written the above 
paragraphs better than I have done. But under the terrible pressures of Hitler, he forgot. 

In 1938, Barth wrote a letter in which "he told Czechoslovakia, threatened by Hitler's attack, 
'that now every Czech soldier will stand and fall not only for the freedom of Europe, but also 
for the Christian church'" (Busch, p. 289). Later he explained, "In my letter to Hromadka--for 



the sake of the faith — I issued a summons to armed resistance against the armed threats and 
aggression which are now being made. It was not a call to a World War ... but certainly to 
resistance" (Busch, p. 289). 

Why couldn't Barth have been content to address this political situation po//'t/'co//y-arguing 
the political necessity of Czech resistance (for which a good case could have been made)? 
Why did he have to go against all his own theological principles-bringing in "the Christian 
church" and "the faith"; anointing the Czech army as a holy arky sponsored by and in the 
service of God? Christian anarchists know better than that! 

"If political order and freedom is threatened, then this threat also indirectly affects the church. And 
if a just state tries to defend order and freedom, then the church, too, is indirectly involved." 
Granted, "as a church it can struggle and suffer only in the spirit," but "it would not be taking its own 
proclamation seriously if it remained indifferent here." ([1938] Busch, pp. 289-90) 

We can be grateful for at least the hint that the way of the church might be different from 
that of the state, although he still has "the church" and "the just state" in closer 
collaboration than Christian Anarchy will be comfortable with. 

"Unconditional resistance must be offered against Hitler-both ideological and military ... 
[The churches] should not [raise the objection] that the people of the democratic states are 
fighting against God; they should tell them that for God's sake [emphasis mine-VE] we may 
be human and must defend ourselves against the onslaught of manifest inhumanity with the 
power of despair" ([1939] Busch, p. 303). Here Barth not only fails to recognize any God 
possibilities beyond the immediate political possibilities, he actually asks us to capitulate to 
political necessity-for God's sake. No, earlier (when he was in his right mind) he had it: if we 
see no other possibility, let's fight-but let us at least have the grace not to say that it is for 
God's sake we are doing it. 

"He said that the Christians were on the way to a final battle which was 'much harder and 
more momentous' than earthly wars, but which spurred them on to fight 'transitory' human 
wars boldly and justly with human means" ([1940] Busch, p. 305). Our human wars are now 
positive signs of God's eschatological war for the kingdom? Personally, I much prefer the 
Barth of Romans II, when he had it the other way around (and right): Our human wars-and 
all other such arkys-are negative signs indicating the absence, the not-yet, of the kingdom. 

While he did not see Switzerland as a Christian country (rather, it was an "unholy Switzerland"), he 
nevertheless understood it as a country with a Christian foundation. As "a community of free 
peoples of free individuals allied by law," the Confederation was in fact, though undeservedly, "like 
an Alpine twilight, a reflection of the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed to us and to all the West. To 
preserve this Switzerland, its people were confronted with the uncompromising alternative "either 
to surrender or to resist." ([1941] Busch, p. 310) 

Now he would have us believe that it is "a Switzerland reflecting the gospel of Jesus Christ" 
that is the anointed arky and positive sign of the kingdom. But can Swiss nationalism be 
depended upon to be all that much better than German nationalism turned out to be? Why 
couldn't Barth have presented "democratic freedom" as being simply a political value in its 



own right— a value which political necessity dictates must now be defended by force of 
arms? As it is, he is losing (momentarily) the very distinction between politics and theology 
that has been the hallmark of his Christian Anarchy. 

Yet, by 1942 Barth is back on the right track. In a message to the American churches he 
warned against 

any "crusading ideology": the church must not ... provide "the necessary religious accompaniment" 
to the "terrible sounds of war." Nor should the war be understood as "an instrument of divine 
vengeance" instead of as "the last terrible instrument for restoring the public order which has been 
damaged and destroyed by common guilt." It was only possible to have "a good conscience" if the 
war against the Germans was "in fact also being carried on for [emphasis mine-VE] them." (Busch, 
pp. 317-18) 

Welcome home, Professor! The war is to be understood as a tragic necessity brought about 
by the constrictedness of the political horizon of human arky. Although it may have been 
fully justified politically, there shouldn't have been even the thought of trying to justify it 
theologically. 

Regarding both Barth here and Bonhoeffer in the chapter to follow, I don't believe there is 
even a question of their having made a theological about-face, rejecting their earlier 
thought and heading off in a new direction. I see them, rather, as two human beings who- 
under terrible pressure-simply found themselves unable to live up to their own ideals. So, 
to whatever reader has never found in himself the same failure of faith, I herewith extend 
the invitation to step forward and cast the first stone. 

2. WCC: Amsterdam '48 /Evanston '54 

Barth was invited to address the World Council of Churches Amsterdam Assembly but was 
reluctant to accept: "Formerly I took no part, or only a small part, in the 'ecumenical 
movement'; indeed, had all kinds of criticisms to make of it, since I have always been 
suspicious of all movements" (Busch, p. 357). That, obviously, is a back-on-the-track 
anarchist speaking. So when he actually did get to Amsterdam, he took the occasion to 
lecture the movement about Christian Anarchy: 

There was a serious danger that Christianity might come to grief not only in its human descriptions 
and assessments of earthly needs, but finally also in its human plans and measures for fighting 
against these needs and overcoming them.... He criticized the preparatory studies above all for the 
view, which could be found in all of them, that "as Christian men and as church people we [emphasis 
mine-VE] ought to achieve what [actually] God alone can accomplish and what he will [emphasis 
mine-VE] accomplish completely by himself.... We shall not be the ones who change this wicked 
world into a good one. God has not abdicated his lordship over us.... All that is required of us is that, 
in the midst of the political and social disorder of the world, we should be his witnesses. " ([1948] 
Busch, p. 358) 

Barth participated in the preparations but was not able to make the 1952 WCC Assembly at 
Evanston. He felt that the theme should not be "The Hope of the Church and the World" 



but, as you might guess, "Jesus Christ, the Crucified Lord, the Only [emphasis undoubtedly 
his] Hope for the World." And "when [Reinhold] Niebuhr, reflecting on the conference 
theme, had left eschatology 'on one side,' Barth became angry and, having given up hope 
[not his "Christian hope," of course], wanted to go home.... [He] regretted above all 'that we 
have to tear our hair so much over Christian hope, of all things, instead of rejoicing at it'" 
([1951] Busch, p. 396). 

3. Picking Up on Old Themes 

The Church, State, and Politics. "[The church should exercise] an active and responsible 
participation in the state. [But] of course, the church's decisive service to the state was, in 
Barth's view, its preaching: 'By proclaiming the divine justification, it performs the best 
service to the establishment and maintenance of human justice'" ([1938] Busch, p. 288). But 
what socially concerned churches today are even preaching the divine justification, let alone 
considering that their primary political service? Talk about doing politics by a "not-doing" of 
politics! 

In 1946, Barth gave Konrad Adenaur "an urgent warning ... not to found a Christian 
Democrat Party. He thought that while the church should indeed have political 
commitments, these should not take the form of a Christian party" (Busch, p. 333)-which 
would, of course, imply God's election of a particular human arky. "He thought that the 
church could neither prescribe a political decision nor leave it open (as though it were 
merely a 'matter of discretion'); its task was to make the issues quite clear" ([1952] Busch, p. 
386). This "clarifying of the issue" I take to mean an open presentation of all interpretations 
and points of view rather than the pushing of one line the pastor (or somebody) has already 
decided is the Christian one. Good (anarchical) advice. 

If It Isn't Biblical and Pastoral, It Isn't Christian Theology. Regarding scholars and teachers of 
theology, "he thought that people would notice 'at every turn' if these would-be teachers 
had never made 'the kerygma- to which there was so much appeal-their own 
responsibility; if they had never presented it in its canonical Old and New Testament form, 
with humility and patience, with delight and love, in preaching, instruction, and pastoral 
work, serving a real community, instead of always just thinking about it and talking about 
it'" ([1950] Busch, p. 353). "He also believed 'that the question of the right hermeneutics 
cannot be decided in a discussion of exegetical method, but only in exegesis itself" ([1952] 
Busch, p. 390). 

The Case against Natural Theology Is Refined but Not Changed. We here may have his best 
word in answer to the analogia entis. Years before, he had repudiated it and, in its place, 
proposed the analogia fidei-the analogy of faith in which our "faith" is actually but the 
reflection, the correspondent image, of God's prior "faithfulness" to us. Finally, now, we get 
the analogia relationis-the analogy of relationship that finds its reflection down from level 
to level of human experience: "Barth's explanation of the image of God in man ... consists 
[first in] the Trinitarian 'self-encounter' of God the Father and the Son [which, second,] is 
'reflected in God's relationship to man' and [third], in turn, in the human encounter of (I and 
Thou,' [to fourth,] 'of man and woman' [by which I take him to mean 'husband and wife'" 
([1942] Busch, p. 317). Notice that, consistent with the rest of his thought, this "analogy" is 



strictly unidirectional. That is, the reality at each level "creates" the reflection below it; at 
every point it expresses God's defining us rather than our defining him. 

"Christian Humanism" is flawed steel.... The central concern of the gospel is also with man. But what 
the gospel [emphasis mine-VE] says about man, for man (even against man) and to man begins 
where the various humanisms cease.... In the light of the gospel one can understand all these 
humanisms, affirm them to some extent and allow their validity.... But in the end one must also 
counter all humanisms in the light of the gospel...." "I myself spoke of the 'Humanism of God.' By 
that I did not mean any humanity contrived and brought about by man, but the delight in man taken 
by God [emphasis mine-VE] as the source and norm of all human rights and all human status" 
[wording reordered for clarity-VE]. ([1949] Busch, pp. 366-67) 

And in what is it, specifically, that God "delights"? He delights in that which his own grace 
has brought up in man. 

Barth takes on "the natural theology of freedom" in words our modern liberationists need 
to hear: "Barth argued that freedom was neither a natural right nor a possession which was 
bestowed by nature. It was God's gracious gift, grounded in God's own freedom. Freedom 
was not a formal power of control, a freedom of choice, but freedom in encounter, freedom 
for" ([1953] Busch, p. 400). 

"The Natural Theology of Ethics" Is Noted, Too. "In Barth's view the law follows the gospel 
and therefore ethics has the task of declaring 'the law as the form of the gospel....' [what 
ethics presents] therefore is not an 'ideal,' but a commandment which has already been 
fulfilled. Ethics is an 'ethics of grace, or it is not a theological ethics at all.' And so the answer 
to the old question 'What are we to do?' is, 'We should do whatever corresponds to this 
grace' ([1939] Busch, p. 302). 

He began by decisively rejecting the doctrine of "ordinances of creation"-in so far as these are 
understood as being laws which are independent of the Word of God and capable of being known 
"naturally." ... Thus the central concept of [Christian] ethics is that of "freedom": not understood in 
contrast to obedience, but as "the freedom of the children of God" which is "the freedom of 
[emphasis mine-VE] obedience and therefore true freedom." ([1951) Busch, pp. 376-77) 

How much of what passes as "Christian ethics" in our day is actually anything more than 
"natural ethics"-how much shows the slightest interest in the "theological ethics" of what 
Barth speaks? 

4. Eastern Europe and the Cold War with Communism 

After having "blown it" during World War II, Karl Barth bounced back to redeem himself 
during the Cold War by giving us some of his best expressions of Christian Anarchy. Because 
of personal connections and interests there, he tended to focus upon Hungary. 

In a lecture delivered in that country, he pointed out that it is 



A dangerous temptation for the "Christian community" either to set itself up in opposition to the 
new order in principle, by keeping to the old, or by identifying itself with the new in an equally 
partisan fashion. Or it could retreat into a false neutrality on an apolitical "inner" line. On the other 
hand, "the church best performs its service in the midst of political change when its attitude is so 
independent and ... so sympathetic that it is able to summon the representatives of the old and new 
order alike ... to humility, to the praise of God, and to humanity, and can invite them all to trust in 
the great change (in the death and resurrection of Christ) and to hope in his revelation." ([1948] 
Busch, p. 355) 

A rather close application of "Jesus and the tribute money," wouldn't you say? 

On subsequent occasions: 

A church which is concerned to tread a cautious path between opposition to the new state and 
collaboration with it-which has clearly come to terms with the question of guilt-[should] for the 
rest [be] concerned with evangelization and building up the community.... Barth felt compelled to 
write to his friends in Hungary, saying in an open letter that they now seemed "to be going too far in 
the direction of compromise with the new order." (Busch, p. 355) 

Emil Brunner tried to goad Barth into issuing "a call to oppose communism and make a 
Christian confession"-as he had done against the Nazis. But this time, Barth chose to stick 
with his Christian Anarchy, pointing out that 

The church of Christ never passed judgment "on principle," but by individual cases, "making a new 
evaluation of each new event" [which, note, as opposed to automatically following the principles of 
some party line, is a rather anarchic approach in itself].... One difference between the former period 
and the present was that to "deify" Bolshevism was hardly a serious temptation in the West, though 
this kind of possibility had been very much the case during the time of the Nazi danger.... [But] "I am 
against all fear of communism. A nation which has a good conscience, whose social and democratic 
life is in order, need have no fear of it. Much less the church, which is sure of the gospel of Jesus 
Christ." (Busch, pp. 355-56) 

I take it that Barth has in mind "fear that the western democracies will fall for communist 
ideology"; he seems not to consider the possibility of Soviet military expansionism. In a 1949 
lecture, his argument was 

that the formation of an Eastern bloc and Western bloc was based on a conflict of power and 
ideology and that the church had no occasion to take sides in it, either with the East and its 
"totalitarian abominations" or with the West, as long as it gave the East grounds for just criticism. 
But today "the way of the community of Jesus Christ in the present" has to be "another, third way of 
its own," in great freedom. (Busch, p .357) 

Later, 

llya Ehrenburg, who had wanted to get him "to sign the Stockholm (i.e., Moscow) peace appeal 
against the atomic bomb, [he dismissed] after a two-hour conversation." "I now react in a decidedly 



negative fashion to such obvious propaganda moves..../' But Barth also refused to identify himself 
with the other side, and in any case, in the summer of 1950, he learned from a sound source that he 
was under scrutiny from the American Secret Service.... "So one is always between two firing-lines." 
([1950] Busch, p. 382) 

Christian Anarchy won't make you friends anywhere. 

Not that I have any inclination toward Eastern communism, in view of the face it has presented to 
the world. I decidedly prefer not to live within its sphere and do not wish anyone else to be forced to 
do so. But I do not see that either politics or Christianity require or even permit the conclusion which 
the West has drawn with increasing sharpness.... I believe anti-communism as a matter of principle 
to be an ever greater evil than communism itself [presumably because, as "the arky nearest the 
truth," it makes Christian claims which dupe people into taking it for Christianity].... The Christian 
churches should have considered it their task to influence both public opinion and the leaders who 
are politically responsible by a superior [emphasis mine-VE] witness, to the peace and hope of the 
kingdom of God." [1969] Busch, pp. 382-83) 

"Anti-" means against. God is not against, but for men. The communists are men, too. God is also for 
the communists. So a Christian cannot be against the communists but only for them. To be for the 
communists does not mean to be for communism. I am not for communism. But one can only say 
what has to be said against communism if one is/or the communists. ([1958] Busch, p. 383) 

Before any reader is too quick to applaud this sentiment, let him ask himself whether he 
would be just as happy to have Barth turn it around to say that one must also be for anti- 
Communist rightists. Can you buy it that Republican presidents are men, too? It is Christian 
Anarchy only if Barth's formula is read both ways-o// ways. 

I hereby nominate the following as the best line in this book-and what should become the 
standard anarchical response to the eternal cry of the zealot, tare-storming activists of 
arkydom. On a Swiss radio broadcast came the question: "What should we do? [emphisis 
theirs]-as small, helpless people who seem to have no influence on the present 
confrontation between the powers." Barth's answer: "WE SHOULDN'T WORRY SO MUCH"-a 
counsel of "not-doing," note well, which Jesus worded, "Be not anxious; you can't add an 
iota to God's work in any case" ([1952] Busch, p. 385). 

V. The Anarchical Royal Man 

After he had read my treatment of Barth on Romans 13, it was Warren Groff of Bethany 
Theological Seminary who pointed me to Barth's "Royal Man" passage from his Church 
Dogmatics IV/2 (1955). Although displaying an approach entirely different from the Romans 

II passage of 1921, "The Royal Man" stands as a second classic presentation of the biblical 
concept of Christian Anarchy. It has to be sheer coincidence, but the "Royal Man" passage 
came seven years before Barth's 1961 retirement just as his "Romans 13" passage came 
seven years after the 1914 birth of dialectical theology. Anyone who cares to can take these 
as Barth's Alpha and Omega. 



The great advantage of this second statement is that it opens out the New Testament basis 
of our thought. Heretofore, not only Barth but the rest of our thinkers as well have had us 
concentrated pretty much on Mark 12 and Romans 13. Now the entire Gospel account of 
the historical Jesus will be brought into view: 

"The conformity of the man Jesus with the mode of existence and attitude of God consists 
actively in what we can only call the pronouncedly revolutionary character of His 
relationship to the orders of life and value current in the world around Him" (p. 171). That 
word "revolutionary" (not italicized in Barth's text) is the one we need to watch if we are to 
understand him. As we read on, it will become obvious he is not using it as he did in 
Romams II, as the principle of "revolution" which-along with the counterpart principle of 
"legitimizing"— is prohibited and rejected. The word "revolutionary" will read in Barth's 
sentence only if it be taken as "the Revolution of God" which can't even begin to be 
correlated with any sort of human revolution. Actually, the word "anarchical" (Christian 
Anarchy) is the one that would best express what Barth has in mind. We will need to make 
this adjustment each time Barth uses "revolution" or "revolutionary" in connection with 
Jesus. 

Jesus was not in any sense a reformer championing new orders against the old ones, contesting the 
latter in order to replace the former [which, of course, is what, earlier, Barth and ourselves have 
been identifying as "revolution"]. He did not range Himself and His disciples with any of the existing 
parties.... Nor did he set up against them an opposing party. He did not represent or defend or 
champion any programme-whether political, economic, moral, or religious, whether conservative or 
progressive [this pair, both here and hereafter, can as well be read by our previous terminology 
"legitimizing or revolutionary"]. He was equally suspected and disliked by the representatives of all 
such programmes, although He did not particularly attack any of them. Why His existence was so 
unsettling on every side was that He set all programmes and principles in question. And he did this 
simply because He enjoyed and displayed, in relation to all the orders positively or negatively 
contested around Him, a remarkable freedom which again we can only describe as royal. (Pp. 171- 
72) 

Every element of our definition of Christian Anarchy appears here. 

On the other hand, He had no need consistently to break any of them, to try to overthrow them 
altogether, to work for their replacement or amendment. He could live in these orders [namely, 
Barth specifies, those of the temple cult and the Roman civil regime].... He did not oppose other 
"systems" to these. He did not make common cause with the Essene reforming movement. He 
simply revealed the limit and frontier of all these things-the freedom of the kingdom of God. (p. 
172) 

The kingdom, the Arky of God, comes into Barth's picture just where Christian Anarchy says 
it should. 

Earlier we suggested that the problem of the arkys is not that they are diabolical but that 
they are human. Now Barth says it: "Inevitably [the orders', or arkys'] provisional and 



relative character, the ways in which they were humanly conditioned, their secret fallibility, 
were all occasionally disclosed" (p. 172). 

And this anarchy of Jesus is itself transparent of the anarchy of God himself: 

In the last resort, it was again conformity with God Himself which constituted the secret of the 
character of Jesus on this side too. This is the relationship of God Himself to all the orders of life and 
value which, as long as there is history at all, enjoy a transitory validity in the history of every human 
place. This is how God gives them their times and spheres, but without being bound to any of them, 
without giving any of them His own divine authority, without allotting to any of them a binding 
validity for all men. (Pp.172-73) 

At this point, Barth goes into the small-print section in which he adduces all sorts of 
scriptural evidence to fill out his argument. We will trace the outline of that argument with 
only the barest hint of the amount of Scripture he uses: "Attention should first be paid to 
what we might call the passive conservatism of Jesus. Rather curiously, Jesus accepts and 
allows many things which we imagine He ought to have attacked and set aside both in 
principle and practice" (p. 173). 

What Barth calls "passive conservatism" could as well be called "apparent legitimism," what 
Paul called "submission to the governing authorities," or what we earlier referred to as 
"God's sufferance of the arkys." And of course, it is this aspect of Christian Anarchy which, 
both in Jesus' day and ours, revolutionary activists simply cannot abide: "We will not put up 
with all this wickedness!" Barth, on the contrary, scripturally documents Jesus' submission 
to: (a) the temple cult; (b) the cultural order of the family; (c) the synagogue and the Jewish 
law; (d) "the economic relationships and obligations of His time and background"; and (e) 
"in respect of political relationships and orders and disorders." 

In my wods (not Barth's): If the name of the game is "Let's Fight the Evil Arkys"-replacing 
them with a Christian social order or overhauling them to be part of that order-then 
"submitting" to their illegitimacy is the worst possible move one could make. If, however, 
the case is that Jesus already has conquered them and is continuing to actualize that victory, 
then our "submitting" is the best thing we can do to keep out of the way and let him 
overcome them with his good. And surely it must be plain that it is only his good that can 
overcome evil. Paul could never have meant to suggest that our good ideas, good 
intentions, and good deeds are sufficient for that task. 

Yet Jesus' "submission" is only one, the first element of his anarchism. Barth now: 

It is quite evident, however, and we must not ignore this aspect, that there is also no trace of any 
consistent recognition in principle. We can describe the attitude of Jesus as that of a passive 
conservatism in the further sense that it never amounted to more than a provisional and qualified 
respect (we might almost say toleration) in face of existing and accepted orders. Jesus acknowledged 
them and reckoned with them and subjected Himself to them and advised His disciples to do the 
same; but, He was always superior to them. And it was inevitable-we now will turn to this aspect - 
that this superiority, the freedom of the kingdom of God, should occasionally find concrete 



expression in His words and actions, that an occasional creaking should be unmistakably heard in the 
timbers, (p. 175) 

Barth now proceeds to run through his same (a) to (e) list, this time giving scriptural 
documentation as to how Jesus' "submission to the arkys is qualified. It should be said that 
in no instance does that qualification take the form of hinted or threatened attack and 
revolt. We shall quote only two examples, the first out of the (a) category of Jesus' 
submission to the temple cult: "When He paid the temple tax for Peter and Himself in Matt. 
17:24f, He did not do so on the basis of an unqualified recognition which the disciple was to 
regard as binding, but ['the children are free,' however we pay] 'lest we should offend [the 
authorities]'" (p. 175). Almost: "Yes, I and my followers will submit-but, you should know, 
we don't have to." Or, as in John 10:18, "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of 
my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." Let's call this 
"qualified submission." Yet it would seem that Jesus seeks to avoid offending the authorities 
just where Christian revolutionaries seek opportunity to offend them. 

The second example comes out of Barth's (e) category of Jesus' submission to the political 
authorities: 

Ought tribute be paid to Caesar or not? Well, the coin bears the image of Caesar, so: "Render to 
Caesar the things that are Caesar's-precisely those things and no more, is the obvious meaning-and 
to God the things that are God's." There is not a second kingdom of God [namely, one God has 
appointed to Caesar] outside and alongside the first. There is a human kingdom which is 
authoritative and can demand obedience only as such [i.e., only as a human arky). And this kingdom 
is sharply delimited by the one kingdom of God. (p. 176) 

This, then, is the second element of Jesus' anarchism: the style of his submission that 
qualifies it as being anything but legitimizing. But what is clear is that revolutionary defiance 
is far from being the only means of refusing to legitimize the arkys. Jesus knew a better one, 
"qualified submission." 

Barth then finds the third and final element of Jesus' anarchy to be the radical conclusion 
drawn from the other two-involving, of course, the nature and action of the oncoming 
kingdom of God: 

But the crisis which broke on all human order in the man Jesus is more radical and comprehensive 
than may be gathered from all these individual indications.... "No man also seweth a piece of new 
cloth on an old garment, etc." (Mark 2:21f.). For Jesus, and as seen in the light of Jesus, there can be 
no doubt that all human orders are of this old garment or old bottles, which are in the last resort 
quite incompatible with the new cloth and the new wine of the kingdom of God.... All true and 
serious conservatism [i.e., legitimizing), and all true and serious belief in progress [i.e., 
revolutionism], presuppose that there is a certain compatibility [or possibility of transition] between 
the new and old.... But the new thing of Jesus is the invading kingdom of God revealed in its 
alienating antithesis to the world and all its orders.... Everything else that we have to say concerning 
the radical antithesis of the new thing which was actualized and appeared in Jesus to the totality of 
the old order can be said only in relation to its complete ignoring and transcending of this order. We 



can merely attempt to see with what profundity He attacked it— by this ignoring and transcending. 
He attacked it — in a way from which it can never recover-merely by the alien presence with which 
He confronted it in its own sphere, (pp.176-77) 

In our chapter following, what Barth here calls the attitude of "complete ignoring and 
transcending" Kierkegaard will more colorfully call "God's infinite indifference" to the 
"worldly passion of partisanship" which so fundamentally motivates the arkys. But however 
it be identified, the attitude lies at the very heart of what we mean by Christian Anarchy. 

Barth proceeds to at least make a try at going through his (a) to (e) list regarding this third 
element of anarchy. We, again, will quote from his (e) section-where it is somewhat 
amazing to find Barth citing those teachings of Jesus which Christian revolutionaries are 
strong in applying on the level of personal relationships but which they somehow keep in 
abeyance when it comes to their fight with the political arkys: 

It is exactly the same in relation to the juridical and political sphere. Here, too, we have a 
questioning of the very presuppositions, which is all the more powerful in its lack of any direct 
aggressiveness [emphasis mine-VE]. What are all the attempts at reform or overthrow in which 
Jesus might have taken part or which He might have instigated or directed compared with the 
"revolution" [quotes mine-VE] which He did actually accomplish in this sphere? He did not oppose 
the evil which He came to root out.... His injunction to His followers, not as a law, but as a free call to 
freedom, is of a piece with this. They are not to resist evil.... If they do not want to be judged, they 
are not to judge.... They are to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors.... [Indeed, they are 
to join Jesus in the prayer of his most abject and yet freest act of submission:] "Father, forgive them; 
for they know not what they do." (pp. 178-79) 

That is Barth's royal and anarchical commentary on "The Royal (and Anarchical) Man." There 
is one conclusion Barth does not draw but which I (if I may) will: There is no point in our 
haranguing arkys about their illegitimacy. They can't comprehend what we saying, and no 
positive results are to be expected on that front in any case. However, it is important that 
Christians remind one other about the illegitimacy of the arkys (the illegitimacy of all arkys, 
both good and bad)-yet there is no reason to raise our voices (or our gorges) in doing that. 

VI. From Here to Eternity--with Blumhardt (1955-68) 

From here, we follow Barth through his retirement and on to his death. 
1. East-West Crisis in the Hungarian Revolt 

Of course, the Soviet viciousness in suppressing the Hungarian revolt put Barth under great 
pressure to desert his anarchical nonpartisanship and join the anticommunists. But he held 
his ground: "Barth's view was that communism had 'pronounced its own verdict on itself in 
Hungary and that 'it did not need ours.' Furthermore, before being interested in the 
splinters in other people's eyes, people should take the beams out of their own" ([1956] 
Busch, p. 427). 



In this situation, it was none other than Reinhold Niebuhr who was sent by some of the 
Pharisees and some of the Herodiansto entrap Barth in his thought.... But knowing their 
hypocrisy he said, as per Mark 12: 

The question "Why is Karl Barth silent about Hungary?" has been raised against me even from 
America. But Karl Barth has remained silent and knows why. It was obvious that this was not a 
genuine question. It did not arise from the practical problems of a Christian who seeks an exchange 
of views and fellowship with another, but from the safe stronghold of a hard-boiled Western 
politician who wanted to lead his opponent onto thin ice, either to compel me to accept his primitive 
anti-communism or to unmask me as a crypto-communist-in either case to discredit me as a 
theologian. What could I have said in reply? ([1957-58] Busch, p. 427) 

Well, he might have said, "Give God what belongs to God"; he would have had good 
precedent. 

In a postscript to a work by his Czech friend Josef Hromadka, Barth wrote: "The church on 
both sides should not let itself be bound by anything-even by tradition, ideology, or the 
interpretation of history-other than the task to preach the gospel. This task was to be 
undertaken in an utter openness of faith in which men could start from the view that 'Jesus 
Christ also died for "Marxists," and he even died for "capitalists," "imperialists," and 
"Fascists""' ([1958] Busch, p. 433). Yet, because he still sensed in Hromadka an ideological 
bent, Barth had to say, "I could not really feel at home in the air of the (Prague) All Christian 
Peace Movement, although I was very sympathetic towards it." ([1964] Busch, p. 433). 

In trying to get across to other Czech friends, he came up with what might be his most 
trenchant epitome of Christian Anarchy: "The gospel puts us in a place 'above the clouds of 
the conflicting and feuding ideologies, interests, and powers in the present Cold War.' 
[Barth] was therefore 'most allergic to any identification of theology with social and political 
thought, and also to any drawing of parallels or analogies between them-in which the 
superiority of the analogans (the gospel) to the analogatum (the political insights and views 
of the theologian concerned) did not remain clear, uninterchangeable, and visible.' 
However, Barth did not see a standpoint above the conflict as an excuse for social and 
political indifference. Rather, it was the stimulus to a 'resolute attitude in which we can be 
of help with our Word, for the sake of God's will. We must show solidarity with the man by 
showing solidarity with men-of the left and the right, sufferers and fighters, the just and the 
unjust, Christians and atheists-while at the same time being sympathetically critical 
towards them'" ([1962-63] Busch, p. 433). 

2. Last Words on First Themes 

/ Stand Alone On the Word ofGod-the B-l-B-L-E: 

"It is not so much a matter of our encountering the witness of scripture as of our encountering the 
one to whom the testimony of scripture bears witness...." But in no circumstances may "the freedom 
of the Word of God ... be limited [by] a sovereignty which we already impose on its testimony: it 
must be allowed its own sovereignty." ([1963] Busch, p. 466) 



Scripture shall not be put under the constraints of any of our arky presuppositions-such as, 
"it must agree with our current political understanding of 'liberation'"; or "it must not 
express anything of what we have chosen to call 'sexism' or use language we have defined 
as 'sexist.' 

The Church Dogmatics Winds Up, as it Began, with Christian Anarchy: In Busch's precis of 
that final volume he cites Barth thusly: 

[He] went on to talk of the "struggle for human righteousness." This, in his view, is directed against 
the "uncontrolled powers." What he means are those powers which come into being when the 
possibilities of human life [break away] from man and rule him-just as man [broke away] from God. 
[Barth] cited political absolutism, money, ideology, and also fashion, sport, and trade! [He] stressed 
emphatically that the kingdom of God can be neither realized nor even prepared for by man. It is "a 
factor sui generis" not only over against the world, but even over against the Christian world. ([I960] 
Busch, p. 444) 

3. And so to Sleep-with Blumhardt 

In another return to the beginning, within that last segment of the Dogmatics-\r\ his 
exposition of the Lord's Prayer, under the phrase "Thy kingdom come"-"in a long 
consideration of the two Blumhardts he referred to the [mentors] through whom his 
understanding of the kingdom of God had begun to grow at the beginning of his long 
career" (Busch, p. 454). Barth concluded the passage with a hymn that, under inspiration, 
had come to the elder Blumhardt. 

Jesus is victorious Lord 

Who conquers all his foes; 
Jesus 'tis unto whose feet 

The whole wide world soon goes; 
Jesus 'tis who comes in might, 

To lead from darkness into light. 

Karl Barth died in his sleep during the night of December 9, 1968. He had spent the day 
working on a lecture. 

He was still at work in the evening when he was interrupted by two telephone calls, about nine 
o'clock. One was from his godson Ulrich Barth, to whom he quoted a verse from a hymn which spoke 
comfortingly about the Christian hope. The other person who wanted to speak to him so late at 
night was his friend Eduard Thurneysen, who had remained faithful to him over sixty years. They 
talked about the gloomy world situation. Then Barth said, "But keep your chin up! Never mind!"- 
[signing off with the old Blumhardt motto:] "He will reign!" (Busch, p. 498) 



And so to bed and to sleep-from which, on "that day," he (along with Thurneysen, the 
Blumhardts, and all the rest of us) shall awake to proclaim: "He reigns, indeed!" 



Chapter Six 

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER 

In our first chapter I named both Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as more-or-less 
followers of the Blumhardts who, consequently, were themselves more-or-less anarchist. 
With Karl Barth, of course, I was dead wrong-there was no "more or less" about his 
anarchism. However, with Bonhoeffer, I was right. Nevertheless, he does have some things 
to say on the subject that merit attention. 

My trouble with Bonhoeffer on Christian Anarchy is the same I have felt with him on radical 
discipleship: he is almost persuaded but can't get himself fully consistent. The first three 
parts of his Nachfolge (The Cost of Discipleship, Macmillan) is undoubtedly the classic work 
out of the entire tradition of radical discipleship. Yet when he comes to Part IV, on the 
church, he slides back into a formal, structured, established concept which I (for one at 
least) simply cannot reconcile with the disciple community of the forepart of his book. And 
it is the same thing again with "anarchy." 

I find two major treatments of arky (or "the Sword") in Bonhoeffer. One is in Nachfolge 
(originally published in 1937) and one in his Ethics (Macmillan), written between 1940 and 
'43. As we have found regularly to be the case with our anarchists, he goes directly to Mark 
12 and Romans 13. His Nachfolge treatment is a case of Christian Anarchy, clearly of a piece 
with what we already have seen. He is discussing the passage (1 Cor. 7:20-24) in which Paul 
counsels Christians to stay in that station of life in which they were called, specifically 
instructing the slave not to undertake all-out efforts get himself freed (counseling against 
revolt, if you will): "As a slave he is already torn from the world's clutches, and become a 
freedman of Christ. That is why the slave is told to stay as he is. As a member of the Body of 
Christ he has acquired a freedom which no rebellion or revolution could have brought him" 
(pp. 290-91). Christian Anarchy, as we have seen, is dedicated to the cause of human 
freedom. But, as a good anarchist, Bonhoeffer sees that true freedom, true liberation is not 
served by fighting the arkys, by rebelling against or trying to revolutionize them. 

It is not as though St. Paul were trying to condone or gloss over a black spot in the social 
order. He does not mean the class-structure of secular society is so good and godly an 
institution that it would be wrong to upset it by revolution. The truth of the matter is that 
the whole world has already been turned upside down by the work of Jesus Christ, which 
has wrought a liberation for freeman and slave alike. A revolution would only obscure that 
divine New Order which Jesus Christ has established. It would also hinder and delay the 
disruption of the existing world order in the coming of the kingdom of God.... To renounce 
rebellion and revolution is the most appropriate way of expressing our conviction that the 
Christian hope is not set on this world, but on Christ and his kingdom. And so-let the slave 
remain a slave! It is not reform the world needs, for it is already ripe for destruction.... 
Therefore let not the slave suffer [even] in silent rebellion, but as a member of the Church 
and the Body of Christ. He will thereby hasten the end of the world, (pp. 291-92) 

Bonhoeffer is powerful in showing that Christian Anarchy derives from the eschatological 
orientation of the gospel. Just as far as he is from blessing rebellion and revolution, so far is 



he from legitimizing the established arkys-and that combination is precisely what we mean 
by Christian Anarchy. When he says that revolution would "obscure the divine New Order," I 
take him to mean that revolution's strident assertion, condemnation, threat, challenge, and 
rage simply cannot be transparent to the kingdom of God. Such represents too contrary a 
spirit. For Christians simply to answer worldly politics with more politics, adding worldliness 
to worldliness-this can but hinder God's program of having worldliness wither away as it is 
overcome by good. 

'"Become not the bondservants of men.' This [enslavement] can happen in two different 
ways. First, it may happen by a revolution and the overthrow of the established order, and 
secondly by investing the established order with a halo of spirituality" (p. 292). Either joining 
the arkys or fighting them spells enslavement to them; the only freedom is to ignore them 
and go with the Arky of God. 

"The world exercises dominion by force and Christ and Christians conquer by service" (p. 
293). 

Regarding Romans 13, then, Bonhoeffer says: 

[St. Paul's] concern is that the Christians should persevere in repentance and obedience 
wherever they may be and whatever conflict should threaten them. He is not concerned to 
excuse or to condemn any secular power. No State is entitled to read into St. Paul's words a 
justification of its own existence.... St. Paul certainty does not speak to the Christians in this 
way because the governments of this world are so good, but because the Church must obey 
the will of God, whether the State be bad or good. (p. 294) 

Bonhoeffer makes it clear that the contextualist question about how well the state may or 
may not be behaving at the moment has nothing to do with Paul's counsel regarding it. 

The whole of Paul's doctrine of the State in Romans 13 is controlled by the introductory 
admonition: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). It is 
immaterial whether the power be good or bad, what matters is that the Christian should 
overcome evil by good. The question of the payment of taxes to the Emperor was a point of 
temptation with the Jews. They pinned their hopes on the destruction of the Roman Empire, 
which would enable them to set up an independent dominion of their own. But for Jesus 
and his followers there was no need to be agitated over this question. "Render unto Caesar 
the things that are Caesar's" (Matt. 22:21-or what we have been identifying as Mark 12), 
says Jesus. "For this cause pay ye tribute also" (Rom. 13:6), says St. Paul at the end of his 
exposition. So, far from contradicting the precept of our Lord, the Pauline charge is identical 
in meaning-the Christians are to give Caesar what belongs to him in any case.... To oppose 
or resist at this point would be to show a fatal inability to distinguish between the kingdom 
of God and the kingdoms of this world, (pp. 295-96) 

I understand that last to mean: if a person thinks that withholding taxes-namely, a political 
power-play challenging the world's evil-bears any sort of relationship to the coming of 
God's kingdom, he is confused as to which kingdom-spirit he is representing. But for 
Bonhoeffer to join his fellow anarchists in centering on precisely those tax passages, and for 



him to agree completely that the issue is the disallowing of revolution as a Christian option- 
well, this gives Bonhoeffer as good credentials as any of the Christian anarchists we've seen. 

If Bonhoeffer had had the sense to stop writing at that point, Christian Anarchy would still 
be where he stands. However, when we turn to his counterpart section in Ethics, things 
have changed. Bonhoeffer has lost his fine sense of balance between legitimization and 
revolution and slid to one side. And-would you believe it?-although in point of time he is 
approaching the moment when he voluntarily will choose actually to join a violent rebellion 
against the state (the plot to assassinate Hitler), his theological slide is the other way, 
namely, an interpretation that is strongly legitimizing both of church and state. 

In that long treatment, he is still very strongly opposed to any sort of disobedience to either 
church or state-but I find virtually nothing to balance that up, no recognition that these 
arkys may themselves be as illegitimate and ungodly as all get out. I quote just one passage 
(the Ethics discussion of taxes) and assume you will be able to sense Bonhoeffer's change of 
attitude. 

Disobedience can never be anything but a concrete decision in a single particular case 
[which case, he will tell us, is when the state in question can with certainty be identified as 
the apocalyptic Antichrist of the end-time]. Generalizations lead to an apocalyptic 
diabolization of government. It would, therefore, not be permissible to refuse to pay taxes 
to a government which persecuted the Church. Conversely, the fact of obedience to 
government in its political functions, payment of taxes, acceptance of loyalty oaths and 
military service, is always proof that this government is not yet understood in the sense of 
the apocalypse. An apocalyptic view of a particular concrete government would necessarily 
have total disobedience as its consequence, (p. 343) 

Notice that Bonhoeffer here has moved entirely beyond Jesus' argument that taxes are a 
special case of what the Christian owes to the state-this, for the fact that the coins bear the 
image of Caesar, proving that they do indeed belong to him. On the contrary, Bonhoeffer's 
argument would seem to say that anything Caesar demands is legitimately owed to him: 
military service and, presumably, the pinch of incense, the silencing of the gospel, you name 
it. He comes close to saying that, because the state is God's instrument, Jesus' "Give to God 
the things that are God's" intends that you are to give to God by way of his intermediary 
Caesar-a rather clear case of legitimizing. 

I read Bonhoeffer to say that any disobedience is allowable only if a person is fully 
convinced that we stand at the eschaton and that this state is actually the particularized 
embodiment of Antichrist, which is to say totally of evil, the very incarnation of the demonic 
(which, by the way, is a judgment I would think sinful human beings are hardly qualified to 
make). And, Bonhoeffer continues, if that state is Antichrist, then Christians dare not render 
it obedience in anything. If the state is not Antichrist, total obedience; if it is Antichrist, total 
disobedience-these are the only options Bonhoeffer considers. Thus he leaves himself no 
room for the other biblical command about our obeying God rather than man. 

That makes for problems. Both Jesus and Paul tell their followers to pay taxes to the Roman 
Empire. For Bonhoeffer, this would have to mean that that state was not yet the apocalyptic 



Antichrist— in spite of its idolatrous worship, its crucifying of Jesus, its persecution of the 
church, its exorbitant taxation and actual enslavement of entire populations, its gross 
immorality, and its military cruelty culminating in the devastation of the Holy Land. 
Presumably, then, even that state legitimately claimed the total obedience of Christians. But 
how, then, would Bonhoeffer handle Paul's selective disobedience in refusing to stop 
preaching the gospel when that legitimate state ordered him to? 

Bonhoeffer, of course, wrote this passage at the very time Nazism was at the height of its 
evil and at the very time Bonhoeffer was himself involved in a plot of ultimate rebellious 
disobedience against the state. (In 1941, two years before his arrest for complicity in the 
attempted assassination of Hitler, Bonhoeffer "traveled to Switzerland on a secret mission 
for the counter-espionage department. 'At that time Bonhoeffer spoke to me [namely, Karl 
Barth] of the plan to form a military government which would first of all halt the German 
troops'" [Busch, pp. 314-15].) So what did he mean to be telling his readers? Was he (1) 
exhorting them to be totally obedient to Nazi Germany? Or was he (2) setting that state up 
as the apocalyptic Antichrist and exhorting them to be totally disobedient to it? Bonhoeffer 
himself, of course, is not consistent with either of those options-and neither of them makes 
very good sense. 

I am not surprised to find a conservative, legitimizing tendency surfacing in Bonhoeffer's 
thought. Whether or not his churchly Lutheranism had anything to do with it, he never 
showed any of the hilaritas of needling arky balloons that is so conspicuous in Kierkegaard 
and Barth and evident in other of our anarchists as well. Bonhoeffer often recognizes a 
certain "resident holiness" in the structures of church, state, and society that our other 
anarchists never see at all. For instance, taking simply Barth as representative of the entire 
anarchist group, he is entirely committed to the holiness of God. Consequently, when it is a 
matter of this holy God being present with his gathered people, obviously something holy is 
transpiring there as well. In this sense (but only in this sense) Barth fully accepts the holiness 
of the church. But that this somehow carries over into a resident holiness within the human, 
arky power structures into which the church has organized itself— this Barth (and all true 
Christian anarchists) would fundamentally deny. Yet I am not as certain Bonhoeffer would. 

So I am not surprised at Bonhoeffer's conservative legitimizing; it is the sequence of his 
positions of which I can make neither head nor tail. If, under the growing evil of Nazism, he 
had gone from conservative legitimizing to Christian Anarchy to violent revolution, that 
would be quite understandable. But, under the growth of Nazism, to go from Christian 
Anarchy then to conservative legitimism and from that to violent revolution ... well, I don't 
know. 

During the summer of 1943, from the prison where he was under detention, Bonhoeffer 
wrote a paper addressed to the judge advocate of his case. In it he defended his actions and 
his relationship to the government. He cited his Christian-Anarchy treatment of Romans 13 
from Nachfolge but not his legitimizing treatment from Ethics-which, of course, would have 
been the piece showing him the more strongly committed to total obedience to the state. 
Strange! (Letters and Papers from Prison [Macmillan], p. 60). 



Bonhoeffer's participation in the plot plainly is at odds with his stated positions regarding 
government-but I don't know that this inevitably creates a theological dilemma. We have 
spotted a similar contradiction in Barth (and probably could in almost any thinker). 
However, regarding Bonhoeffer, Barth, and any similar instances, perhaps our rule ought to 
be: Inconsistencies are not to be read as signaling theological change unless accompanied 
by explicit rationalizations and explanations indicating the same. Under the pressure of 
events, any of us can wind up acting below the level of our best understanding. I contend 
that Barth and Bonhoeffer show up as true proponents of Christian Anarchy in spite of all. 



This book set out to be a study of Christian Anarchy. It was no part of its design, nor did I 
foresee, that it would also address the issue of tax-withholding. I take no responsibility for 
the fact that that has happened. The fault lies squarely with Jesus-and with Paul for having 
followed his lead. It was they who chose tax-withholding as the symbol of the revolutionist 
arky faith their Christian Anarchy was intent to reject. That is why later anarchists can't 
develop the biblical bases of their position without running into the issue. However, now 
that we are well into it, we might as well finish the job. 

To this point, we have encountered the exegeses and expositions of Jacques Ellul, Martin 
Hengel, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These people show remarkable agreement 
upon a quite original line of interpretation. But, lo and behold, it may have been that 
ancient anarchist S0ren Kierkegaard who founded the school thought. His word comes in 
Training in Christianity (Princeton University Press, 1944), pp. 169-70: 

What could [Jesus] do with kingly power who was the most indifferent of all men with 
respect to everything worldly? The small nation to which he belonged was under foreign 
domination, and naturally all were intent upon the thought of shaking off the hated yoke. 
Hence they would acclaim him king. But, lo, when they show him a coin and would constrain 
him against his will to take sides with one party or the other-what then? Oh, worldly 
passion of partisanship, even when thou callest thyself holy and national [patriotic]-nay, so 
far thou canst not stretch as to ensnare [shake] his indifference. He asks, "Whose image is 
this that is stamped upon the coin?" They answer, "The Emperor's." [Says he,] "Then give to 
the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and to God what is God's." Infinite indifference! 
Whether the Emperor be called Herod or Shalmanezer, whether he be Roman or Japanese, 
is to him the most indifferent of all things. But, on the other hand-the infinite yawning 
difference which he posits between God and the Emperor: "Give unto God what is God's!" 
For they with worldly wisdom would make it a question of religion, of duty to God, whether 
[or not] it was lawful to pay tribute to the Emperor. Worldliness is so eager to embellish 
itself as godliness, and in this case God and the Emperor are blended together in the 
question, as if these two had obviously and directly something to do with each other, as if 
perhaps they were rivals one of the other, and as if God were a sort of emperor-that is to 
say, the question takes God in vain and secularizes him [by implying that whether God does 
or does not get what belongs to him is a question of the kind as to whether or not the 
Emperor gets the tax coin belonging to him]. But Christ draws the distinction, the infinite 
distinction, and he does this by treating the question about paying tribute to the Emperor as 
the most indifferent thing in the world, regarding it as something which one should do 



without wasting a word or an instant in talking about it-so as to get more time for giving 
unto God what is God's. 

"Thus Kierkegaard doth make cowards of us all." He not only said it first; he said it best. 
Why, for instance, should he get the honor of seeing that the Mark 12 passage belongs in 
the revolutionary setting of first-century Palestine and deals with the issue of revolution- 
when, in his day, the science of biblical studies wasn't even far enough advanced to tell us 
that finding the historical setting is the way one is supposed to go about understanding a 
text? Why should a rank amateur get to make that discovery, when it was something that 
should have been left for the likes of Martin Hengel? 

"Oh, worldly passion of partisanship [which leaves my phrase "human arky faith" looking 
pretty weak], even when thou callest thyself holy or patriotic-nay, so far thou canst not 
stretch as to shake his indifference." Surely, "infinite indifference" beats even Barth's as the 
very term for describing Jesus' unarkyness. Kierkegaard also beat Barth to the punch in his 
refusal to bridge between God and the emperor, theology and politics, divine activity and 
human activity, God's arky and human arky. He saw that the tax-withholders' sanctifying of 
their political revolution as being of God is just as much "worldliness embellishing itself as 
godliness" as is the legitimizers' sanctifying of the political establishment as being of God. 
Well put, that! He also sees that it is "to take God in vain and secularize him" whenever we 
suggest that he must stand on one side or the other of our political quarrels. No, on this 
one, ours is a God of infinite indifference. So let Caesar have his coin without even taking 
time to talk about it. Rather, from you, the word should be: Takes all a' my time to praise my 
Jesus-all a' my time to praise my Lord. If I don' praise him, the rocks goin' a cry out, Glory 
and honor! Glory and honor! Ain't got time to die. 

I am not offering to research the matter, but my guess is that, under the total and long-time 
impress of arky dominance, the as-much-as-unanimous interpretation of Mark 12 and 
Romans 13 has been a legitimizing one. Jesus' and Paul's counsels to pay one's taxes, 
therefore, undoubtedly have been seen as entirely obvious and unexceptional-to the point 
of actually being superfluous. The state and church being holy arkys of God, nonpayment 
and revolution would, of course, be unthinkable. What else could Jesus or Paul conceivably 
have told us, except to pay our taxes? 

Our anarchist tradition, then, has come along to break that earlier interpretation wide open 
and stand it on its head. Jesus and Paul are not out to legitimize the arkys but to argue God's 
illegitimizing of them. Suddenly, this has the effect of making their commands to pay taxes 
surprising, unexpected, and hard to understand-this, instead of reasonable and obvious. "If 
the established arkys are illegitimate before God, then surely we good Christians should be 
out resisting them, challenging them, fighting them, replacing them, transforming them." 
But, "NO!" come back Jesus and Paul, "if God has illegitimized the establishment arkys, he 
has illegitimized the revolutionary arkys in the same move. He is not about to take political 
sides. Rather, he is calling his people to stay completely out of that power contest-that 
contest of which tax-withholding is just as much a part as tax-legitimizing is." 

It strikes me that, on every count-whether technical exegesis of the texts, historical 
probability, congruence with the total gospel, or theological consistency-the anarchistic 



interpretation is completely superior to and more accurate than the classic, legitimizing one. 
But a third exegesis-which I have frequently heard claimed but never seen produced- is one 
that would meet all the above tests and come out showing that Jesus and Paul would want 
to be understood as actually recommending that we withhold taxes from the current U.S. 
Government. 



Although I do not find them offering any particularly original exegesis of our texts, we might 
take a moment to put the Anabaptists into the picture. A number of years ago, as part of an 
official Church of the Brethren position paper on the subject, I researched the entire 
Brethren history (from 1708 on) regarding its views on tax-withholding. The results then 
won the approbation of Donald Durnbaugh, the acknowledged expert on Brethren history. 
Some Brethren scholars have said they thought they could document that some Brethren 
individuals withheld taxes during the Revolutionary War, though I have not seen where any 
did so document. Yet, that matter quite aside, what is plain is that, up until very recent 
times, every official Brethren statement and every statement by a Brethren official has 
understood the Scriptures as opposing tax-withholding rather than encouraging it. 

I cannot speak with the same authority regarding the various Mennonite and Hutterite 
bodies. Yet my impression is that the case would be the same there as with the Brethren. 
However, regarding Anabaptist origins, I do know that-in Anabaptism in Outline (Herald 
Press), the most comprehensive survey of early Anabaptist writings yet done-Editor Walter 
Klaassen, without hesitation, Says: "Because the government was instituted by God and 
acted in God's stead, it had to be obeyed. Taxes and dues should be paid without resistance. 
(Only the Hutterites refused to pay taxes for war or the executioner)" (p. 244). My guess is 
that, by the time we get into official institutional positions, these groups would show up as 
consistently opposing withholding as have the Brethren. 

I do not mean to imply that the Anabaptists already possessed the same interpretation of 
Mark 12 and Romans 13 that we have found in our scholars. My guess is that it rather has 
been the case that the Anabaptists (a persecuted people, remember) existentially sensed 
the illegitimacy of the arkys and so intuitively resisted any legitimizing interpretations of the 
texts. For the rest, the sheer desire to be biblically obedient would have them paying their 
taxes-without even trying to think through all the whys and wherefores. They were 
Christian anarchists, not by thinking out a theological position, but simply in the process of 
being as biblically obedient as they knew how to be. 

It is indisputable, then, that among the Anabaptists of both Brethren and Mennonite 
background, the greatest pressure, promotion, and argument for tax-withholding has come 
just exactly now. There is no evidence that it is a result of new biblical insight. That third, 
pro-withholding exegesis of the texts has not been forth-coming. What, then, does this 
about-face in the Anabaptist position signify? The only way I can understand it is that we are 
trading our Christian-anarchist tradition for a contemporary liberal Christian-revolutionist 
one. I would be happy to hear another explanation. 



Chapter Seven 

ANARCHIC THEOLOGY AND ARKY POLITICS 

In his book on Karl Barth, George Hunsinger set out Barth's basic premise thus: 'Only if the 
two [theology and politics] are not confused-with each retaining its own integrity-can 
either have anything to say. Theology must not be politicized, nor politics theologicized." 
Certainly we found Barth himself confirming and carefully observing this principle. 

Ellul makes the point just as strongly in reference to his own career and authorship: 

Here was my approximate intellectual path from 1940 to 1959: Could I bring all of history, 
all of human invention into a Christian perspective? In other words, was synthesis possible? 
... Neither synthesis nor accord was possible. Should we then give in to this other fault 
frequent in Christianity? Since synthesis is impossible, since antithesis is obvious, shall we 
exclude, condemn, damn? ... So I also had to accept that laws, morals, and political systems 
have their value outside of Christianity. (Season, pp. 173-74) 

Elsewhere in that book (p. 213) he speaks of "the irreconcilability of the revelation and the 
world." 

It should be recognized that this is not simply a theoretical proposition on Ellul's part. His 
field of professional expertise is the history of institutions and politics (as well as biblical 
theology). If anyone would have been able to bring off the marriage of theology and politics, 
he is the one. And he had made the big try. His negative conclusion comes out of hard- 
wrought experience. 

Yet long before, Kierkegaard could have told (and did tell) Barth and Ellul why the merger 
was forever impossible: "Politics consists of never venturing more than is possible at any 
moment, never going beyond what is humanly probable. In Christianity [on the other hand], 
if there is no venturing out beyond what is probable, God is absolutely not with us-without 
of course its following that he is with us whenever we venture farther out than what is 
probable" (quoted in my Kierkegaard book, p. 304). 

That makes sense. If things are happening simply according to human possibility and 
probability; if nothing is going on that cannot be explained sheerly in human terms, then 
also to claim that God is present and active is meaningless. God's presence is either that 
which takes things beyond the merely human or it is nonsense to speak of it as God's 
presence at all. Given the fact that, by definition, politics deals solely in human possibilities 
and probabilities, it has no way of recognizing any reality beyond that human limit. And 
given the fact that, by definition, theology deals solely in the difference made by the 
presence of God, it has nothing to say if forced to speak from within the political limit where 
God is not recognized. 

What it comes to is that theology and politics are controlled by two different orders of truth. 
Theology is true only to the extent that it is faithful to the gospel, faithfully communicating 
God's self-revelation in history (history with the divine difference) as that has been recorded 



and interpreted in Scripture. On the other hand, politics is true only when its proposals and 
actions are truly realistic and workable within the limits of sheer human possibility. Either 
order of truth is valid. Neither Kierkegaard, Barth, nor Ell ul has any intention of putting 
down politics. Both theology and politics have complete validity as long as each stays within 
its own presuppositions. Yet every attempt at mixture creates complete confusion. At any 
given moment, a person must be clear and make it clear whether he means to be faithfully 
proclaiming the gospel of what difference God makes in the world or whether he means to 
be proposing what are the purely human possibilities of a situation. If it be assumed that 
these two come to the same thing, then the person is not speaking of God-who must make 
a difference, else there is no reason to bring him into the picture at all. 

Ellul sees a further implication of Kierkegaard's distinction: 

It was not a question of giving Christian responses or solutions [to the world's political 
problems] which would be absurd. How can we propose solutions derived from our faith to 
people who live outside the faith? But more important, the Bible is not a recipe book or an 
answer book, but the opposite: it is the book of questions God asks us. (Season, p. 73) 

To recommend to an unbelieving world the ways and means of God as being the solution to 
its political problems makes about as much sense as selling people gasoline as the answer to 
their transportation problems when they've never seen an automobile. 

The intent of this chapter is to demonstrate the sort of galimatias that results when we 
ignore the foregoing counsel of our wise Christian elders and try to speak theology and 
politics with the same voice. Our specific example is the theology of peace and the politics of 
peace. Our point is that they are not the same thing. Each valid-but only when we keep 
absolutely clear as to which is being done when. Theology will not translate into political 
terminology, because that would force it to be silent about God. Politics will not translate 
into theology, because it can't talk about God. 

At this point, it gives me real satisfaction to be able to report that I have found this 
distinction between theology and politics-even between "the theology of peace" and "the 
politics of peace"-to have first and best been formulated long antedating the efforts of 
Ellul, Barth, and even Kierkegaard. The case is, regularly, when I get a good idea, I later 
discover that I had subconsciously cribbed it from one of these three. It is satisfying now to 
know that, as often as not, those fellows had cribbed their good ideas from Scripture (from 
where all the best cribbing is done). 

The original thinker in this case was the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Actually, he admits 
that he is cribbing from the Lord; but his Chapter 30:1-5 reads thus: 

"Woe to the rebellious children," says the Lord, "who carry out a plan, but not mine; and 
who make a league, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go 
down to Egypt, without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh, 
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn 
to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation. For though his 



officials are at Zoan and his envoys reach Hanes, every one comes to shame through a 
people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace." 

Then, in verse 15, God reveals what his alternative plan would been: "For thus says the Lord 
God, the Holy One of Israel, 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in 
trust be your strength.' But you would not." 

Isaiah, here, was speaking to a political situation very like the one which we find ourselves 
today. The impending Assyrian invasion threatened as complete an end of Israel's world as 
nuclear holocaust threatens the end of ours. And the inevitability of the Assyrian calamity 
was of a much higher order than nuclear calamity today. The Assyrians were actually on the 
march, and there was nothing Israel could possibly do to deter them. Conversely, in our 
situation, no party shows any serious intention of launching nuclear attack, and "mutually 
assured destruction" does constitute a strong deterrence of such. 

Yet, for Isaiah's Judah as for us, there was frantic need for a "peace plan" (in our case, 
"disarmament"; the equivalent in Judah's terms being "how to make it when we have no 
arms"). The plan Judah hit upon was to sign a mutual defense pact with Egypt. The 
agreement was to be that, if Assyria attacked Judah, Egypt would be committed to come to 
Judah's aid. No doubt the hope was that the very existence of the pact would be a deterrent 
sufficient to keep the Assyrians from invading. 

Isaiah presents the Lord, of course, as being politically critical of this political peace plan- 
although I am going to argue that the much more fundamental criticism comes at a different 
point. Yet the Lord does point out that, sheerly as politics, the plan is completely unrealistic, 
giving no attention to the actual human probabilities involved. Egypt cannot be counted 
upon to rescue Judah. Indeed, why should she even want to? 

Making the parallel application to our own situation, then, do we seriously think the Lord 
would consider it more realistic for us to count upon the Soviet Union's doing the right thing 
if we decided upon the political solution of unilaterally disarming? From any calculation of 
human probabilities, is not the one expectation about as equally unrealistic as the other? 

Yet, note carefully that God's primary criticism is not that Judah is making a poor political 
choice. He gives no hint of any superior peace plan-nor does he even suggest the possibility 
of one. No, what he criticizes is Judah's assumption that political reality is the only reality 
there is, that human probabilities are all we have to work with, that the only possibility of 
solution will have to be a political one. Rather, no one has given a thought to the fact that 
there is a God around whose counsel might be sought, who might have a word on the 
subject or a plan more realistic and promising than the one the politicians have devised. 
Judah is condemned for thinking politically where she should have been thinking 
theologically, for leaving God out just where he should have been counted in. Are we, in our 
peace efforts, doing any better? 

And when, in verse 15, God reveals his peace plan— "In returning and rest you shall be saved; 
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength"-it turns out to be totally theological in 
character and not political at all. From the standpoint of sheerly human probability, God's is 



the most unrealistic proposal yet. However, as a theological faith in the power of the living 
God, it is the only realistic solution possible. 

So, Isaiah has set the stage for Kierkegaard, Barth, Ellul, and now ourselves to consider "the 
theology of peace" and "the politics of peace" as two different orders of truth which must 
be treated independently and separately in light of their differing premises and frames of 
reference. 

In the earliest version of this chapter; written before I knew I was a Christian anarchist, the 
opening sentence read: "I am a committed pacifist. "" I now see it is impossible for one to be 
both a "pacifist" and an "anarchist" at the same time-this because "pacifism" identifies 
simply one more human arky toward which an anarchist must be "un-arkycal." The way in 
which the word "pacifism" most frequently and most consistently is used among us has it 
referring to that arky faith which is convinced that human piety can be so organized, 
directed, and empowered through techniques of nonviolence and reconciliation as to pacify 
society and eliminate its recourse to militarism and war. 

When Christian pacifism is specified, this usually adds only that Jesus of Nazareth is looked 
to as our greatest proponent and teacher of pacifistic ethics and method. Such, of course, 
hardly amounts to "the active presence of God" as being absolutely essential for spelling the 
difference between war and peace and so must still qualify, not as a theology of peace, but 
simply as a politics of peace. 

Now it is also true that, in the earlier manuscript, I insisted that I was "at odds with the great 
majority of 'pacifists' both within and outside the church." That may have been sufficient to 
make the distinction; but now, as a Christian anarchist, I feel the need to identify my 
position as completely separate from that of arky, political "pacifism." My best suggestion is 
"anarchical nonresistance"-though much more important than finding a label is the making 
of the distinction. 

As a Christian anarchist, I cannot buy the assumption that the problem of war can be solved 
by the holy arky of pacifist politics operating within the limits of the humanly probable. I do 
not find human history ever even having demonstrated this possibility. More importantly, I 
do not find my Bible ever promising or foreseeing it. 

My faith, then, needs a theology of peace in which peace becomes a possibility only through 
the intervention of an active presence of God that does indeed make all the difference. Let's 
work first, then, at such a "theology of peace." I already have devoted an entire book to the 
effort (War and Peace from Genesis to Revelation, Herald Press) and have no desire to 
duplicate it here. What follows, then, is a minimum, bare-bones version of that fuller 
theology. Yet this, as that, focuses on the very real and necessary difference the presence of 
God makes. It is, then, very much a theology of peace that makes no claim at all of having 
any practical, worldly, political relevance. 

I take very seriously the apostle Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 15:22 that "in Adam" all 
die. And I understand him to mean that humanity-in its Adamic determination to perform 
the God-function for itself, to achieve justice and righteousness through its own arky 



powers of moral suasion (which, to put it biblically, is the presumptuous appropriation of 
the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil)-that in this way humanity invariably 
proceeds into death. 

When, then, Paul's sentence goes on to speak of all being "made alive," his thought is the 
furthest from anything akin to human moral achievement. "To be made alive," here, 
certainly can be taken as synonymous with finding "life," "salvation," "shalom," "justice," 
"total freedom from violence," call it what you will. And Paul's verb must be taken as 
deliberately passive. Being "made alive" obviously is nothing dead people can do either for 
themselves or to themselves. Their only hope is that somebody-and it must be said, a very 
special, much-more-than-human Somebody-do it to them. Paul, of course, specifies that 
this Somebody is: with Christ, by the One who made Christ himself alive after he also in 
Adam had died. 

Paul elsewhere not only establishes Jesus as the agent of our resurrection into shalom but 
presents Jesus' personal experience as the paradigm of how-whether individually or 
societally-the transition from violence to shalom must take place. Jesus of Nazareth, 
plainly, was both the greatest model and the greatest teacher of love, pacifism, and 
nonviolence that the world has ever seen. Yet that most exemplary moral teaching and 
behavior won him not one convert but eventuated rather in the total rejection signified by 
his crucifixion. As a holy political arky, his "pacifism" didn't work so well. Clearly it is not the 
biblical intent to suggest that, although Jesus was unfortunate enough to run into a bunch 
of particularly hardnosed characters, we have the right to expect that our pacificism will 
have much greater success in turning violent enemies into lovers. 

There long has been an argument as to whether the Jews or the Romans were primarily 
responsible for Jesus' death. That, I think, represents a misunderstanding; the biblical 
opinion is rather that of universal responsibility. Both the Jews and the Romans are guilty, 
yet those receiving the most explicit condemnation are the disciples. Judas betrayed him, 
Peter denied him, and the rest fled from him. (And always, in the Gospels, the disciples are 
emblematic of the Christian Community en toto.) Even the spectators-the women who 
looked on and wept over what was happening to Jesus-were condemned, precisely for 
wanting to play the "spectator" instead of facing up to their own involvement in his 
rejection. 

If it had turned out that Good Friday marked the end of the story-unreversed by God's 
unwarranted, undeserved, uncalled-for action of Easter-there is no reason to think that 
Jesus' pacifist witness would ever have been remembered or recorded. This greatest peace 
demonstration in history had a positive political effect of exactly zero and a negative moral 
result of universal guilt and thus universal death. Jesus does not turn out to be too good an 
example of how pacifism is supposed to work. 

"As in Adam all die." The fate of the pacifist Jesus shows us that, by nature, the tendency of 
the race-far from that of reform and revolution toward rectitude-is to crucify life and 
choose death. As I see it, the cross is the theological emblem posted as marking the dead 
end of any trust in holy arky, the self-realizing piety and moral educability of humanity. And 
Paul makes it plain that, on the cross, it was not only the one individual Jesus who died. No, 



as his crucifiers, all the rest of us were there found guilty, were sentenced, were crucified 
with him. For that matter, it was also in the cross that God went dead; from all that could be 
discerned, he too had died. Humanity had found Perfect Love more threatening than any 
military invasion and had responded by triggering more death and destruction than any 
number of nukes (which can kill only the body) could accomplish. "As in Adam [and on the 
cross] a// died." 

"... So also in Christ shall all be made alive." Humanity's is the way of death; but fortunately, 
Humanity is not the only player on the stage. Easter, now, does not signify simply the one 
individual Jesus being made alive. No, with Easter, God is the first to come alive again-to 
become once more discernible, accessible, and active on the scene. Then, in addition to 
Jesus, Paul speaks of "all" being made alive again in him. I, for one, am ready to take Paul for 
what he says-the only qualifier being that "all" have not yet heard, accepted, or waked up 
to the fact that they have been resurrected. Christ has done everything he needs to do or 
can do; yet "resurrection" hardly is in effect until the individual does his part by getting up 
out of the coffin and doing something to indicate that he is no longer a corpse. 

However, I propose, there was at least one other resurrection on Easter morning as well. 
The story and reputation of Jesus as moral instructor in pacifism (which, without Easter, 
would have stayed completely dead and lost) has also been returned to life. Yet this 
"pacifism," now, is part and parcel of the resurrection-faith and thus totally "theologized"- 
the presence of God in resurrecting the dead making it entirely distinct from a political 
program of sheerly human possibility. After Easter, there is no way of understanding Jesus' 
"pacifism"--which, on its own, had led to nothing but death-as being simply wise counsel to 
(or even a demand made of) the arkys of worldly politics. No, at Calvary, that world had 
already registered its final verdict on Jesus and his teaching. 

It seems obvious, then, that the theology of peace, the gospel of shalom, is a word 
"hearable" only by those who themselves have "with Christ been made alive." It is a 
resurrection word for resurrected people and affords no sense, meaning, or relevance 
outside the context of resurrection. It is a word of shalom; yet the only shalom it knows or 
can envision is that of this Prince of Peace. It is through his resurrection that shalom is 
created and in his parousia that he, in fact, becomes our shalom. But, as to how far human 
violence might be mitigated through good politics within the limits of human probability— 
here, the theology of peace has absolutely no wisdom or counsel to offer. It knows and can 
speak only of the difference God makes-having no basis for even an opinion outside that. 

Thus, proceeding to put this theology into the form of theological ethics, or biblical 
injunction, I would propose something as follows: In the power of his resurrection (and only 
in that power), you have now been made able and can afford to renounce all violence, 
whether self-assertive or self-defensive. You can venture just that far, secure in the faith 
that-even if making yourself vulnerable leads to your death or the death of your nation-the 
God who, out of death, already has made you alive with Christ, can, according to his own 
choosing, resurrect whatever needs resurrecting time and time and time again. 

Notice that we here have duplicated the regular (if not universal) pattern of the Bible's 
ethical injunctions. These are two-part statements. There is, of course, a "command clause," 



the imperative regarding what the agent is to do. However, there is also an "enablement 
clause" explaining what God has done or offers to do that will make it possible for the agent 
to obey the command. And it is, of course, the enablement clause that is the explicitly 
theological statement of the difference God's presence makes in the case. St. Augustine's 
prayer is perhaps the best generalized version: "Command, Lord, what thou wilt-and give 
what thou dost command." Consider, then, these biblical examples. 

"Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's 
house to the land that I will show you'" (Gen. 12:1). The command to go away from 
everything you hold dear makes sense only because of the enabling clause, the promise that 
"I will show you"-which is to say, "I will be there with you, showing the way; only that will 
make your going even a possibility." 

The Ten Commandments should never be read beginning simply with the First 
Commandment. That is to miss the enabling clause and make the commandments 
themselves very bad news indeed. No, Exodus 20:1-2 reads: "And God spoke all these 
words, saying, 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the 
house of bondage.' "That is to say, "If I already have exercised such grace and power in your 
behalf, you can be certain that I also am committed to continue that exercise in enabling 
you to meet these admittedly impossible commandments." 

In Romans 12, where Paul is ready to shift from proclamation of the gospel to ethical 
injunction, his transition reads: "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, 
to present your bodies...." In effect, he has two enabling clauses there. The little word 
"therefore" actually says: because God has done for you all that I have just been talking 
about, it now is a realistic possibility for you to present your bodies and what all. Then, even 
more explicitly, he tells us that it is"by the mercies of God" (not by the power of our piety) 
that we will find ourselves able to live out such impossible counsel as "repaying no one evil 
for evil," etc. 

A final example gets us back to our "peace" theme. In Isaiah 2:1-5, notice that what there 
amounts to a command for us to beat our plowshares is most explicitly preceded by the 
enablement of the nations in coming to God to learn his ways and to be judged (i.e., made 
right) by him. The theology of peace we are developing differs only in Christianizing the idea 
by specifying the enablement as being God's resurrection-capability revealed in Christ. 

Such a theology of peace, obviously, is slanted toward a particular audience and meant 
especially for it. In the first place, it is the audience of one's brothers and sisters of the faith- 
-those who already have heard and accepted the gospel but who always need their 
understanding broadened, deepened, and made more obedient. In the second place, the 
theology of peace certainly should be presented as an integral part of the gospel one 
presents in the evangelistic endeavor of winning new Christians. In this respect, the 
theology of peace is proclaimed to the world, although certainly not as good advice to the 
world as world— but rather, as proclamation designed to bring people out of the world as 
world. Then, too, Christian evangelism can proceed only individual by individual; the arky 
idea of Christianizing populations en bloc has proved a fatal one. So the "right" audience for 



the theology of peace is the faith community and individuals on the way to becoming part of 
it. 

Perhaps no harm is done in (occasionally) proclaiming the theology of peace in the political 
milieu of secular government and statecraft; yet we need to be clear about the economy of 
such a situation. Statements regarding the difference made by God's presence cannot be 
accepted as relevant to conversations committed to considering only human probabilities. 
So if, as inevitably must be the case, the theological proclamation falls upon deaf ears, the 
proclaimer is entirely out of order and showing a most un-Christian spirit in berating and 
denouncing the politicians for rejecting his Christian truth. No matter how Christian any of 
those individual politicians might be in their personal commitment, as politicians they are 
prohibited from operating theologically-and ought to be. 

For instance, if the members of Congress were to vote the armed forces out of existence 
and, in explaining their action, testified that they were trusting the power of God to 
resurrect the nation if it came to that, they would quickly be impeached-and ought to be. If 
those members personally happened to be Christians, fine. But it was not as Christians they 
were elected to office but as politicians completely committed to finding the best actions 
possible within the limits of human probability and to justifying those actions upon the same 
premise. All the documentation concerning their office, role, and function-from the U.S. 
Constitution on down-assumes that state is a secular, political, human institution and not a 
Christian, theological one. 

It can no more be tolerated that a Christian politician justify decisions by appealing to a 
religious faith not shared by the body politic than it can be tolerated that a Christian 
physicist propose theories that explain phenomena at given points by conjecturing miracles 
of God. Politics is just as much a science within the bounds of human probability alone as 
physics is. So, not only will the Christian theology of peace fall on deaf ears with the 
government-it ought to. Let government once become the debating society for all different 
theologies and theories of God and it would be rendered completely useless for its true 
task. As Barth, Ellul, and Kierkegaard have insisted, politics has a chance of being good 
politics if it stays entirely away from theology. 

Perhaps there is no harm in occasionally challenging the political world with the gospel- 
although certainly there is nothing positive to be expected from doing so. Perhaps there is 
no harm in occasionally reminding the government that it is god/ess-although its perfect 
retort would be: "True! That's by design. If we are to have any chance of governing a 
pluralistic and secular citizenry, we will need to be godless and theologically ignorant." 

Jesus apparently understood this very distinction between theology and politics. When he 
had his chance before Pilate, his actions confirmed the irreconcilability of their respective 
viewpoints rather than being an attempt at establishing communication. He made no 
attempt to convert Pilate or to engage him in theological discussion; rather; he suggested 
that the two of them belonged to two totally different worlds of discourse. Yet neither did 
Jesus make any effort to denounce the Roman state and curse Pilate for being who he was; 
it is not the task of theology to sit in judgment upon politics. Theology is to be judged 
theologically and politics politically. So, quite the contrary, Jesus showed a profound 



understanding, almost sympathy, for Pilate's situation. In the account of John 18:36, Jesus 
says, "My kingship is not of this world. If my kingship were of this world, my servants would 
fight...." 

Jesus' word-the complete contrary of the word of many of his modern pacifist followers-is 
not the angry denunciation of Pilate's continual fighting. Rather, in effect, "You know, Pilate, 
it is only the fact that my experience of reality is open to God instead of being limited to this 
world of the humanly probably as yours is — it is only this that frees me from having to fight 
the way you always have to be doing. Indeed, if my government had to be confined to the 
same horizon as yours, I would find myself having to fight just as you do." There is no point 
in castigating Pilate for being a fighter; under his circumstances, the poor guy has no 
alternative. 

It follows that what any sort of violence on any level then indicates is that the perpetrator- 
at that moment and in that act-is "outside of Christ." In one sense, this makes the violence 
of the world more excusable than that of Christians, in that the world has never claimed to 
be "in Christ." 

It would seem to be in following this lead that Ellul, Hengel, and perhaps others have 
insisted that violence turns out to be entirely necessary to a secular government's self- 
preservation and functional existence. It is of no help at all, then, for Christians to butt in 
with the glib suggestion that any government could be peaceful if it only chose to be so. 
That shows no understanding whatever. Jesus is much nearer the mark in implying that 
liberation from violence can be found only in the shalom of God. Thus Jesus could feel true 
compassion, not just for a particular praetor, but for a miserable Roman Empire and an 
entire secular world that, in failing to know God, had gotten itself locked into endless 
rounds of fighting: "they know not what they do." There is sin here, of course-but it is the 
essential sin of choosing to go without God (of which many of the pacifists may be just as 
guilty as the secular world they berate). Yet, in face of the tragedy of this loss of God, the 
shrill screams of "why don't you be peaceful like we good pacifists are?" show a particular 
lack of perception and sensitivity. 

So, the theology of peace is what it is, God's word for the ears of faith that can hear-but 
nothing of much use as political counsel to a secular world that knows not God. Indeed, this 
may have been what Jesus had in mind when he said, "And when you hear of wars and 
rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place [as long as the world remains a 
world closed to God's shalom], but the end is not yet [when God shall come to open that 
world to himself and resurrect it out of its grave-clothes of violence]" (Mark 13:7). 

Yet arky pacifism has not heard Barth's anarchical dictum that theology dare not be 
politicized nor politics theologized if either is to retain its validity. So what we get here is a 
religio-political voice that tries to speak both ways at once and thus winds up in an 
incoherency that is neither good theology nor good politics. Under its own terms, the 
theology of peace is realistic in putting its faith in a real God of proven resurrection 
capability. The secular world's mainline political tradition also is realistic in confining itself to 
the real limits of what is humanly possible and in wrestling with the reality of being forced 



into violence when resort to God is not a live alternative. Yet religio-political pacifism turns 
out to be incapable of realism on either front. 

Pacifism's normal mode of operation, it strikes me, is something as follows: The biblical 
theology of peace, we have seen, proclaims, "Because you have experienced what it means 
to be made alive in Christ and so have total confidence in the resurrection capability of God, 
you now can afford and are enabled to renounce all violence and live defenselessly." 

Pacifists, however, because many are themselves not that concerned about theology and 
because they sense that the first, enabling clause truly is quite irrelevant and "unhearable" 
on the scene of secular politics, have a tendency simply to drop the enabling clause and go 
with the command clause as their party line. They simply command, "You (individual, 
community, corporation, or nation) certainly can afford and are well able to renounce all 
violence and live defenselessly if you will simply choose to." 

Of course, dropping the enabling clause eliminates any reference to the difference made by 
God's presence-thus reducing the proposition from theology to the sheer politics of 
immediate human possibility. It frequently is attempted to rectify this reduction (to a 
degree) by making the statement read: "Jesus teaches us that we can and should renounce 
all violence and live at peace." However, this does not restore the statement to the status of 
theology, because it still does not recognize any need for enablement by God and it treats 
Jesus simply as a secular moral teacher and nothing more. 

Besides that, the statement is now false and unbiblical. Jesus never taught anything as sheer 
secular counsel; he taught everything with constant reference to the necessity of our being 
enabled by God. If you want Jesus' real opinion on the world's possibility of making itself 
peaceful apart from God's enablement, then hear him say to Pilate: "If my kingship were of 
this world-as yours has to be-why then even my own people would have to be out there 
fighting, just as yours have to be." 

So, even though the pacifist position sees itself as "religious," claiming the support of Jesus, 
the Bible, the churches, et al., it offers very little in the way of a theology of peace. The 
theology has been reduced to politics. 

Well, then, does pacifism represent a good politics of peace? Not very. As Barth and the 
others have suggested, the only way of getting either good theology or good politics is to 
keep each distinctly within its own frame of reference, working from its own distinctive 
presuppositions. Taking even a very good theology and trying to reduce or remold it into a 
political program simply does not make for good politics. As Ellul put it, "Giving Christian 
responses or solutions [to political problems] would be absurd. How can we propose 
solutions derived from our faith to people who live outside the faith?" 

As Ellul further hints, the greatest problem with the politics of the "pacifism" of the Christian 
Left is its total lack of realism. If politics is the art (or science) of the humanly probable, then 
no political proposal is of any help or value unless there can be demonstrated a high 
probability, first, that it will be acceptable to the citizenry and, second, that implementing 
the proposal would produce the actual benefits claimed for it. And the proposal, of course, 



must be shown as workable within the realistic limits of human finitude, self-centeredness, 
moral weakness, nationalism, lust for power, and general sinfulness. 

How, then, is it of any help to anyone for pacifists belligerently to demand that a secular 
society, on its own, in a secular world, proceed to pacify itself in a way the gospel suggests is 
possible only to a God of resurrection capability? It certainly is anything but proclaiming the 
gospel (good news) to a sick world simply to demand that it heal itself-and then damn it in 
no uncertain terms when it rejects such impossible counsel. Pacifism of this sort is hardly a 
following of Jesus in the attitude he took toward Pilate. And, sheerly as politics, the pacifist 
approach strikes a truly expert politician like Ellul as off-the-wall, romantic utopianism- 
spinning dreams of what we wish might be, as though that were the equivalent of 
presenting a realistic plan for getting there. Here is political thought that betrays little or no 
comprehension of the realities of human existence and world affairs. Here are "doves" who 
are probably not as "harmless" as the ones of which Jesus speaks but who also are no wiser 
than doves, when Jesus wants them "as wise as serpents." 

The root difficulty, of course, is just what was suggested at the outset. The arky faith 
regularly identified as "pacifism" can manage to be neither honest theology nor honest 
politics-failing, as it does, to recognize the incompatible frames of reference, the necessary 
distinctions between, and the respective limits of the two. Consequently, its "theology of 
peace" becomes unfaithful by dropping the God-reference (which was the only thing that 
made it theology)-this in the effort to make that theology more commensurate politically. 
Its "politics of peace', also becomes unrealistic by demanding the world do for itself what is 
only a theological possibility. The attempt to be both theology and politics prevents it from 
being either. 

"But is there, then, a valid Christian politics of peace?" 

The question is worded wrongly and so must be answered no. Recall how adamantly Barth 
objected to any political program or party taking the adjective "Christian," or "religious," 
and then trying use that as a recommendation of its truth and superiority. Christian political 
programs are as impossible as Christian mathematical formulas or Christian cookbook 
recipes. 

Let's try again: "Is there, then, a valid politics of peace in which Christians can 
conscientiously participate?" 

Most certainly! There is no reason to deny, even, that it can be the Christian's theology of 
peace that moves him to participate in the political effort. Yet, while engaged in that effort, 
he is obligated to act simply as a citizen (a political entity) and not pull rank as a Christian. 
Every proposal offered will need to be justified on political grounds, as humanly credible in 
the achieving of particular human results-not on the grounds that God commands it and 
promises to do thus and so. This in the same way that a Christian may be a physicist, but he 
still must keep his physical theories within the human limit and not try to enhance them 
with resort to miracles of God. The limits of discourse must be respected: when doing 
theology one must speak of God; when doing politics one must not speak of God. 



In order to keep the distinction between double-mouthed "pacifism" (which tries to be both 
theological and political at the same time) and single-mouthed politics, let's give the latter a 
new label, "peacemaking." In the first place, I would think, this politics of peace, this effort 
at peacemaking, ought to show much more understanding of and compassion for the world 
and its rulers than is commonly the case with the pacifists. We need an appreciation for the 
kind of bind in which a secular society-a world that does not know God, remember-finds 
itself when there are no good answers, when apparently the best option is the admittedly 
poor one of violence. We need to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of rulers who have 
the responsibility of keeping a show on the road and populations viable when all occasions 
do conspire against that. Conversely, we need to sense the irrelevancy of simply dismissing 
all these officials as being "bad people" and the futility of glib and easy solutions (such as 
total, unilateral disarmament) in the face of unmanageably complex problems. 

In our peacemaking, we need to realize that the sciences of politics and statecraft require 
expertise of the same order that medical science does-and a person's "Christianity" is no 
substitute for political wisdom. The top-of-the-head opinions of rank amateurs are of no 
more help regarding national policy than they are regarding the treatment of cancer. The 
peacemaker who volunteers to counsel the government on what it should do had better be 
properly credentialed in political science. 

For instance, regarding a political complexity like Nicaragua, I find much more enlightening 
and helpful a scholarly article in a secular journal, written by a political scientist who knows 
the history of the country, has been there in government service or as a trained political 
observer, and who knows politics-such an article I find much more helpful than one in a 
religious magazine by a sincere and dedicated Christian whose observations are limited and 
whose political expertise is nil. If high-level peacemakers intent on being government 
advisors expect to be heard, they will have to show some high-level political savvy at the 
same time. 

The above would seem to imply that, regarding the politics of peace, Ellul's maxim definitely 
applies: "Think globally; act locally. " Locally (even below the level of political structure, for 
that matter) is where all of us politically amateur peacemakers have a chance of making a 
contribution. We might help a neighbor find peace with God, help someone get at peace 
with himself, bring peace within a family and prevent a divorce, and so on up the line. And 
do not for a moment scorn this level of peacemaking as being peanuts in comparison to 
international peacemaking. Politics being based upon the humanly probable, the 
probabilities of making a significant difference are much greater locally than internationally. 
At the level of the local, the apparently small efforts of a great many people just might add 
up to a lot more peace than will ever be produced by the efforts of a few experts at the 
intractable top. And who knows but that God's will for peace might be meant to work from 
the bottom up rather than the top down. 

Yet, even regarding the peace of the nations, a practical, constructive politics of peace will 
stand in some contast to the customary pacifist effort. Because peacemaking, now, is the 
practical attempt to ameliorate the conditions of tension, conflict, and military 
confrontation in the world and under the terms of the world's political limits of human 
probability, peacemakers will have to recognize and accept the impossibility of a secular 



world's renouncing all dependence on violence. Otherwise, if the peacemaker becomes 
"holier than thou" and refuses to consider any move other than total, unilateral 
disarmament, he will only make himself irrelevant and of no use to anyone. 

Notice that, in a theology of peace, God can call his people, the believers, to become 
completely defenseless. However, in a politics of peace, we have no right to call a secular 
state to become defenseless-as a humanly prudential move. For that matter, what right 
does a Christian have to demand that a secular state produce in itself an order of 
peacefulness that the demander himself has not been able to attain within his own 
marriage-or a church to demand, when it can't even pacify its own Christian constituency? 

When the goal of peacemaking is to help the world in preventing injustice and forwarding 
justice, the pacifist denial of secular society's right to self-defense and self-liberation cannot 
come across as anything other than totally irrelevant or even subversive. Remember, the 
world does not have a God it can trust to take care of survival, justice, peace, and all those 
things we look to God for. So secular society should hardly be expected to venture the sort 
of nonresistant risk-taking Christians can afford. 

Consequently, the parameters of realistic political peacemaking will have to be stated thus: 
Granted the secular world's felt necessity for the options of both self-defense and just 
revolution against tyranny, how can we best scale back and tone down military preparation 
threat without, in the process, jeopardizing either national security or the possibility of just 
revolution. This, I would contend, is a realistic goal which good human politics might have a 
significant probability of achieving. To scorn this one in favor of the truly "Christian" vision 
of a world that neither needs or wants arms would succeed only in making the proposers 
feel righteous about themselves, without being of any help anywhere. 

Stating the issue this way has the immediate effect of giving peacemaking an entirely 
different complexion from that so common today. No longer is it possible to make the 
simplistic and polarizing distinction between "we moral pacifists" and "those (everyone else) 
immoral warmakers." Now, it would seem, proponents from virtually every point on the 
political spectrum can buy the thesis that, as long as security is preserved, it is altogether 
right and proper for us to seek every possible means of scaling back militarism. Yes, there 
will be differences of opinion about what level of armament represents "military security"; 
but that is a question that can be debated and perhaps even settled without casting moral 
aspersions on anyone. 

Peacemaking, now, need no longer be a battle between the righteous and the unrighteous 
but a common dialogue by those seeking the same end but having differing ideas about how 
to get there. Accordingly, the situation is "relativized"-i.e., each strategy proposal from 
whatever cause group can be accepted as honest and well intentioned, yet relatively (but 
only relatively) right or wrong, wise or unwise, practical or unrealistic, contributory or 
distracting. Now, even such a proposal as that of the Reagan Administration-that presently 
to proceed with the development of our nuclear technology will actually enhance future 
chances for mutually scaling-back with the Russians-that proposal can be accepted as an 
honest effort at peacemaking, even while arguing that it is not the wisest or most promising 



approach (which is not at all the same thing as its being damned as an expression of the 
president's desire for nuclear war). 

Perhaps the first obligation of wise political peacemaking, then, is to depolarize and defuse 
the process of peacemaking itself-opening it to include all citizens of goodwill (and being 
generous in that attribution), building mutual respect (rather than nurturing dark suspicion), 
welcoming every proposal (rather than defending one's own as being God's truth and 
dismissing other people's as being of the devil). The world that peacemaking must address 
and with which it must work is one caught in the very difficult and complicated predicament 
of needing to preserve national security and, at the same time, back away from superfluous 
and dangerous militarism. There is no easy solution; peacemakers who imply that they (or 
the Bible) can provide one are not being very helpful. 

No, for peacemaking, the order of the day is calm, dispassionate, reasoned, politically savvy 
debate-a meeting of minds to address a common problem in search of a mutually 
satisfactory solution. This will call, first, for complete mutual respect and then for the most 
deliberate and careful sort of speaking and hearing, giving and taking, negotiation, 
arbitration, compromise, and political creativity. But what peacemaking neither wants nor 
needs is simplistic sloganeering; mutual accusation, denunciation, and recrimination; raging 
passion; stiff-necked inflexibility; or the demanding insistence of "We aren't going to put up 
with any more of this stuff. We want this thing solved-and we want it solved now." 
Peacemaking never has been known to be well served by tantrum. 

What we have come to, then, is that a faithful theology of peace can be a wonderfully 
moving and inspiring proclamation of promise and grace-on its own terms. Likewise, a 
realistic and practical politics of peace can be a humanly helpful bit of business-on its own 
terms. However, what we don't need is a holy arky (i.e., one asserting theological authority) 
to come on claiming that it has the political ways and means of creating a totally peaceful 
world. For that, I am afraid, we still must await the work of God when he decides the time is 
right. 

To point out, then, what I hope is the obvious: We have here spoken only of "peace." Yet 
the essential principle of keeping theology theology and politics politics would apply 
similarly, regarding whatever issue might come to hand. 



It seems to me that most of the current, widespread discussion regarding religion and 
politics has been less than helpful for the failure to make clear what we mean by "religion"— 
or "politics," for that matter. Allow me this opportunity to clarify at least what / mean. 

1. "Should Christians be active in politics?" Of course-if that where their gifts and 
interests lead them. At the same time, however; I must say I know of no scriptural or 
gospel arguments indicating that political channels offer such unique possibilities for 
serving one's neighbors and doing good for the world that all Christians have a 
sacred obligation to be politically active. Nevertheless, any Christian is also a citizen 
and so holds the very same political status as any and all other citizens. Christian and 



non-Christian citizens alike have the same freedom to participate or not participate 
politically— and the same civic responsibility to do so. I cannot see that a Christian 
affects the matter one way or another; neither privileging nor hampering one in the 
political arena. 
2. "Is it proper for Christians to use political means to promote their particular religious 
values and morals within a pluralistic society?" Sure; it is as proper for Christians to 
promote their values as for any and every other faith-system (or nonfaith-system) to 
promote its. My problem comes, rather, when we identify any of these as being 
"Christian" (or "religious") values and morals. 

As with all faith-systems, there is not the slightest doubt that Christians derive from 
their gospel particular standards of values and morality. Even so, it strikes me as 
grave error for us ever to identify any such derived morality as being "Christian 
morality." Contrary to the way in which it often is treated, the Christian-biblical 
gospel is not just a superior moral system among other moral systems (i.e., it is much 
more than simply wise counsel as to what constitutes good human behavior). No, 
the gospel is essentially an account of God's actions in history, not moral instruction 
as to how nice people should behave. 

That there is no such thing as "a Christian-biblical morality," which, if followed, 
would spell social health and salvation, I find indicated in two ways: (a) If there is 
such a unified Christian-biblical moral system, the faith-community of the church has 
never been close to a consensus on what it is. (b) Every moral system ever claimed to 
be the "Christian" one probably has been duplicated in other faiths (including wholly 
secular faiths). If there is anything unique about Christianity, it obviously does not lie 
in the moral systems derived from it. What sense, then, does it make to restrict a 
particular system by specifying it as "Christian"-when the fact that one is a Christian 
doesn't make him any more likely to accept it and the fact that he is not a Christian 
makes it no less acceptable to him? 

The fact is that any number of different moral systems can be and have been derived 
from the biblical gospel-with each having about as good arguments, documentation, 
and support as another. Nothing is to be gained (and a great deal of Christian charity 
is to be lost) by the church splitting up to battle over whose is "the truly Christian 
moral system." I am quite confident, for example, that the liberal Left's is not true 
Christian morality and the conservative Right's is actually immorality (or vice versa). 
Doubtlessly the Left is reading its Bible correctly on some points and wrongly on 
others-and the Right likewise. I would be happy to have it said either that both 
represent Christian moralities or that neither does (good arguments either way). But 
what the evidence will not allow is any party's claiming that what it represents is 
"Christian morality" while any party else represents "un-Christian immorality." 

What this says, then, is that Christians of any and all persuasions have a perfect right 
to promote in the political arena whatever morality they have derived from their 
Christian faith. Of course, that morality is what they take to be the "Christian" one- 
yet they would be smart to leave the adjective at home when going out to offer the 
morality for public, political consumption. They should consider that, although the 



term "Christian" gives that morality divine sanction for them, it will prove nothing 
but a handicap with anyone else. Other Christians who happen to "know" that their 
own is the one really true Christian morality will hardly be impressed by the party of 
the first part claiming divine sanction for its screwball ideas. And to denominate any 
one position as "Christian" certainly will hinder Jews, Hindus, secularists, atheists, 
and whoever from accepting it. No, even if a person's moral views are derived from 
the gospel, when he takes them into the political arena for promotion there, those 
ideas will need to stand on their own (untheological) feet, being sold on the basis of 
a sheerly human wisdom that can appeal pluralistically, quite apart from any 
considerations of religious commitment. Thus President Reagan was right in saying 
that he prefers we approach abortion as a moral problem rather than a religious 
one. 

Religously derived moral ideals are welcomed and needed in the political 
marketplace-although not in the form of religious claims. So, how about it?~ 
Christians with their Christianly derived values active in the public arena? Yes. But, 
divine sanction introduced as political recommendation in a secular, pluralistic 
setting? Inviting the secular public into an intramural squabble over which Christians 
represent the true Christian morality and which an immoral perversion? This is 
where I have been insisting that religion and politics must be kept strictly separate, 
each within its own particular framework, operating out of its own distinctive 
presuppositions. 

So you tell me which side of the "religion in politics" debate I am arguing. My opinion 
is that the commonly presented either/or-namely, either "religion freely mixing in 
politics" or "religion kept strictly out of politics"— is poorly put and much too 
simplistic to handle the complexities of the matter. 

3. "Should particular political entities (systems, parties, programs, agencies, cause 
groups) include the word 'Christian' in their titles or be publicly identified as 
'Christian'?" That political entities of whatever origin or ideology should exist goes 
without saying. That they should label themselves in such a way as to imply some 
sort of divine sanction, God's endorsement of their moral superiority, or super- 
political authority-that practice is highly questionable. 

Although, admittedly, Karl Barth did join more than one political party that was 
denominated "Christian," it is plain that he played no part in naming them so. He is 
perhaps the thinker who has been most adamant against coloring and biasing the 
human search for political truth by injecting extraneous, nonpolitical, non-human, 
faith considerations. To do so is a crime against God in dragging him down to the 
level of partisan politics (see Mark 12) and a crime against man in confusing and 
messing up his effort to come to the highest political wisdom of which he is capable. 

4. "Should church officials or official church bodies (pastors, congregations, district 
administrations, denominations, ecumenical bodies) make edicts implying that 
certain political proposals mark a degree of Christian fidelity and obedience that 
others do not?" This is a tricky one. It strikes me as proper for such bodies to speak 



in terms of general, inclusive, long-range political goals but improper to designate 
any particular, detailed, and exclusive political strategy as being the one Christian 
means of getting us to a goal. 

Thus: Yes, it is proper for the church to call us into the search for world peace. But 
no, it is not proper to specify a "nuclear freeze" as the one true Christian proposal 
for getting there. Thus: Yes, it is proper for the church to raise a Christian concern 
regarding the right of the unborn to life. But no, it is not the place of the church to 
specify, regarding abortion, what is the only law of the land that will be acceptable 
as moral and right. (Thus, for myself, I am convinced that the most truly moral law 
regarding beverage alcohol would be prohibition. Yet, knowing it to be unworkable, I 
am not even interested in promoting that politically as the right law for a pluralistic 
society. The church has to give the world room to find the moral options that are 
most workable in its own worldly situation.) 

The moral alignment which leads me to my conclusions regarding these questions is this: 
The essential fact to be noted is that all political ideas, proposals, and options are creations 
of fallible and sinful human beings, done under the limitations of a quite morally intractable 
social environment. This is to say that no political proposal (no matter how Christian it is 
claimed to be) can guarantee very much, if anything, in the way of good results. At the very 
best (regarding, say, peacemaking) some proposal might result in averting certain disasters 
and alleviating certain conflicts-yet certainly not transform society into the peaceable 
kingdom of God. At next best, this proposal could prove entirely ineffectual and 
unworkable-yet not do any particular harm. At worst (even with the most Christian of 
intentions) it is quite possible for it to backfire and bring results the exact opposite of those 
desired. In a word, politics is a chancy business. 

So, on a moral scale from zero to one hundred, the righteousness of God would lie at one 
hundred (the top), and all the human righteousnesses of our political morality would scatter 
themselves at the bottom-from zero, say, up to three. Now, politics properly done within 
its own horizon would operate out of a close focus upon that bottom cluster and thus find 
appreciable, worth-while, and important moral distinctions between, say, a 3.0 proposal 
and a 2.75 one. 

However, let the church try to get into the act by dragging in theological considerations 
(God, Christian or not, the will of God, the righteousness of God) and the reading of the 
scale is immediately transformed. Now, with the righteousness of God in the 100 spot, all 
the options of human politics are seen to be under God's judgment as unrighteousness-and 
the difference between a 3.0 and a 2.75 is as much as indiscernible. 

This would result in an entirely accurate picture-// the church were ready to confess that its 
solemn political decrees and counsels (even if 3.05) are actually of a kind with and as much 
as indistinguishable from the 2.75 political decrees and counsels of the heathen; //, in its 
pronouncing righteous judgment and damnation against the politics of the state and world, 
the church were willing to put its own politics under the same condemnation. 



Yet, by officially designating its chosen politic as being the "Christian" one-the will of God, 
the expression of his righteousness-the church gives the impression that its place is at the 
100 level, the top of the scale, as much as infinitely removed from all the un-Christian 
options clustered at the bottom. And that, obviously, is a totally false picture of the actual 
moral alignment involved. 

Of course, what this designating of particular political opinions as "Christian" actually 
accomplishes is to introduce into the body of Christ wrath and division where none needed 
to happen at all. Clearly, the church does have to meet and cope with theological and 
spiritual divisions in the body; these have to do with the integrity of the gospel the church is 
committed to protect. Yet I find no question anywhere in Scripture that the church has also 
been delegated to protect the political orthodoxy of the world. I'm confident there are any 
number of Christians who consider themselves great ecumenists but who, rather than 
serving Christian unity, actually are shredding the body of Christ by insisting that their 
political opinions be recognized as the "Christian" ones, thus impugning the Christianity of 
whatever brothers and sisters see otherwise. 

Thus we do great and totally unnecessary damage to the body of Christ whenever we move 
to politicize the church and the gospel. Why, for instance, should we jeopardize Christian 
unity for the sake of a matter as problematic as the Nestle boycott? Grant, for an opener, 
the complete justice of wanting to correct Nestle's misuse of its infant formula; there were 
still hard questions that should have been faced, (a) By what rationale did we focus all our 
power against Nestle, while showing no concern at all regarding the much greater damagers 
of human welfare, the tobacco and liquor industries, which we not only fail to oppose but 
fail even to discourage our own Christian constituents from patronizing? By what sort of 
moral selectivity is it we pick our political targets and marshal our fighting spirits for justice? 
Indeed, I would be happy once to find the church as concerned about the misuse of its own 
product (biblical theology) as it was about Nestle's misuse of its. 

(b) No matter how evil Nestle's practice, the question should have been raised as to 
whether the amassing of the church's partisan political power forcibly (by economic clout) 
to impose our virtue on the company was a means consonant with the gospel counsels of 
suffering love. (The church's opinion of the Tightness of economic boycott reverses 
dramatically as soon as it is a question of local congregations withholding financial support 
from denominational programs they find to be Christianly unworthy.) 

So why could not the churches-in the interests of preserving both Christian truth and their 
own Christian unity-have been content to raise the moral issue of Nestle's practice. The 
church then could have recognized the Christian integrity of (1) those led to join the boycott 
and (2) those preferring the more loving, persuasive approach of talking things out with the 
Nestle executives and (3) those feeling called to make their moral witness on issues other 
than the Nestle one? Speaking thus, the churches could have been heard by their total 
constituencies as having a word from God. But no, what we like to credit as being "Christian 
courage" must take the form of infallible edicts as to which political option is "the Christian 
one"-leaving stand the implication that whatever church members fail to agree are not the 
true Christians their morally dogmatic brethren are. 



If this is what "religion in politics" is to mean, I find it truly contributive to neither politics 
nor religion. It distorts political reality by implying that one political position stands outside 
the judgment of God, 97 points above all others. And it is actually destructive of religious 
reality, namely, the mutual recognitions of love obtaining between head, hands, and feet- 
all the various members of the body of Christ. 

Religion and politics? I think I am saying that there are senses both in which they belong 
together and in which they must be kept clearly distinct. That of which I am certain is that 
political-religious-moral dogmatism is of absolutely no help. 



Chapter Eight 

CHRISTIAN ANARCHY AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE 

Although the authorities in this book were chosen for what they could tell us about Christian 
Anarchy, they have gone regularly to the Scriptures that address the issue of tax payment. 
We have collected a number of expert opinions but will now turn to a biblical-theological 
analysis of our own. From this biblical base, then, we can broaden the focus to a 
consideration of civil disobedience in general-of which, clearly, tax-withholding is but one 
(though perhaps the prototypical) example. 

Now, at each point where Scripture advises against the withholding of taxes it includes a 
rationale to back up the advisory. That rationale is different in each case. It is most 
important for us to understand how each ties in directly to the concept of Christian Anarchy. 

Mark 12:13-17 

We have seen that, in Mark 12, the argument is that Caesar's image on the coin is proof 
enough that the stuff is his; that it came from him; that, in essence, it is nothing we even 
should want or value, being the godless mammon of the Evil One. Caesar's "money" was 
never anything that either did belong or even should have belonged to us-and God denies 
that it was ever anything of his, either. When Jesus says to give to God what belongs to God, 
he obviously is exempting the mammonish coinage which he already has specified belonging 
to the caesar who created it. 

Our care and concern, then, dare not focus on this arky power-struggle over who gets to say 
how the filthy tax lucre is to be spent. How Caesar spends his money is his responsibility. 
There is no suggestion that God has appointed us Christians to try to take over as Caesar's 
comptroller-although, admittedly, Scripture never speaks about what responsibilities we 
may have as citizens of a democracy. (I would suggest as a rule of thumb that civic 
responsibility is a proper obligation only insofar as it does not threaten our prime 
responsibility of giving God what belongs to God.) 

In any case, Jesus makes it plain that the arky involvement of fighting Caesar over money 
can only be a distraction from that prime responsibility. The battle of the arkys-whether it 
be the "good ones" or the "bad ones" who seem to be carrying the day-has absolutely 
nothing to do with the coming of the kingdom of God and his redemption of the world. So, 
Jesus tells us, rather than fighting him for it, let Caesar take his cut-so that you can continue 
to ignore him. The stance can be described as nothing but "unarkycal." 

Romans 12:14-13:8 

We will need to give more detailed attention to Romans 13-in that I have come to realize 
how firmly we are in the grip of the passage's traditional "legitimizing" interpretation. The 
support for this reading falls into a most interesting alignment. Of course, the Christian Right 
(along with conservative evangelicalism in general) welcomes this theological view of 



Romans 13 as confirmation of its own politically conservative commitment to political 
establishment as being God's chosen means for governing the world. 

Yet curiously enough, the Christian Left also accepts, if not welcomes, the legitimizing 
interpretation-although under an entirely different rationale and for a totally different 
purpose. In some cases the argument runs: Mark 12 shows Jesus to be strongly illegitimizing 
of Caesar. Romans 13 has Paul coming out just the other way. In this showdown, Jesus 
obviously should take precedence over Paul; therefore, we aren't obligated to give 
particular weight to Paul's counsel about paying taxes and honoring the authorities. 
Alternatively, the argument runs: Yes, Paul does legitimize established government; yet 
certainly he must intend this regarding only "good" governments. Accordingly, his counsel 
about paying taxes must apply only to governments worthy of our tax dollars; when he says 
to pay taxes to those to whom they "are due," he must mean to those who, in our opinion, 
are morally deserving. Thus, it would follow that Paul had in mind paying them only to the 
"good" Roman Empire of his day and not the "Evil Empire" of ours. 

As a way out of the political sophistries of both the Right and the Left, I propose an 
anarchical reading of Romans 13 that has Paul illegitimizing the political world as a whole- 
and thus entirely bypassing the dispute about his legitimizing anything, whether of the Left 
or the Right, whether judged to be politically good, bad, or indifferent. If I may, I will call 
mine: "A Reading of Romans 13 the Under the Premise that Its Author Was a Student of the 
Old Testament." (I disdain to argue this premise, because anyone undertaking to challenge it 
is manifestly belated, bewildered, and benighted.) 

1. If we respect Paul's context by examining the total passage of Romans 12:14-13:8, it 
is plain that his purpose in introducing governing authorities" is in no sense to argue 
their "legitimacy." His main topic is the Christian obligation to love any person 
whatever and live peaceably with all. Check it out; he opens this inning by placing his 
hit: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them" (Rom. 12:14). He 
extends that run to second base (13:1), at which point he introduces his "governing 
authorities" illustration. This he closes off neatly at third (13:7). He then proceeds to 
make his home-plate score by ending up where he started: "Owe no one anything 
except to love one another" (13:8). Pretty slick, I would say. 

The "governing authorities," then, are brought in as Paul's example of those to 
whom it will be most difficult to make the obligation apply-but whom God 
nevertheless commands us to love, even when our natural propensity most strongly 
urges us to resist, and fight them. As he elsewhere states the offense even more 
pointedly, "Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?"-which, of 
course, is not the easiest thing in the world for human beings to do. 

Thus-just as with Jesus' praying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they 
do," and his teaching about "turning the other cheek," "going the second mile," and 
the like-Paul is using the governing authorities as a test case of our loving the 
enemy-when doing so is repugnant to our innate moral sensibilities (which 
sensibilities we ought never, never, never equate as being the very will of God; but 
which we regularly do go on to equate so anyhow). If this "indiscriminating love" 



reading be correct, then verse 7 (the final word of the "governing authorities" 
section) ought to agree with Paul's overall love theme. 

This it most beautifully does //"pay all of them their dues-taxes, revenue, respect, 
honor" advises against our withholding any of these items from whatever governing 
authority claims them as due. If, however, the verse is taken to mean that we are to 
allow things only to nice governments who are known to be deserving of them-then 
we have gone from "indiscriminating love" to "highly discriminating love," and Paul 
has undercut his radically Christian argument merely to mouth the trivial and 
obvious ("for if you love those who love you, what reward have you?" [Mt. 5:46].) 

Yet that absolutist interpretation is made as much as unimpeachable when Paul 
proceeds to wrap up his entire disquisition on "indiscriminating love" with verse 8. 
He drops the "governing authorities" illustration and universalizes the principle: "Not 
just the taxes and honors claimed by the governing authorities, we Christians ought 
not resist or try to withhold anything justly (or even unjustly) claimed from us. No, 
the only unpaid claim that dare be found outstanding against us is that we have not 
given anyone as much love as God would have us give." 

2. We ought not interpret Paul's Romans-13 words without also considering what he 
has to say about the Roman Empire elsewhere. Elsewhere, of course, he talks about 
principalities and powers, rulers of the present darkness, and things of that sort. I 
don't know that any of these is to be understood in direct reference to Rome; yet 
there is every reason to believe Paul would include Rome in that passel. And if you 
want the Old Testament angle, it would he this: As a well-educated rabbi, Paul would 
be entirely cognizant of the scriptural opinion regarding pagan oppressors of Israel 
from the slavemasters of Egypt through to the Seleucid tyrants of Syria. I can't 
imagine anything that would lead him to exempt the current Roman regime from 
that long-established judgment. This in itself should warn us against a too easily 
legitimizing reading of Romans 13. 

3. The history of Paul's own relationship to and knowledge of Rome should also warn 
us against that reading. In an earlier chapter we already suggested what Paul's 
previous experience must have taught him. He would have known that Rome's was a 
pagan domination and military occupation of the Jewish homeland. Under the 
likelihood that it was as a small child he had come to Jerusalem for rabbinical 
training (Acts 22:3), Paul would have been fully informed about the growing Jewish 
restiveness and Rome's cruel, mass deportation-enslavement-crucifixion suppression 
of the same. Along with the rest of the church, Paul's prime name for Rome would 
have been "Dealer of Death to the Author of Life" (Acts 3:15). He would have known 
that, only a few years earlier, the Christians of Rome (to whom he was writing), 
under the edict of Claudius, had had their congregations broken up and dispersed. 
Paul himself, of course, could point to a number of instances in which the empire 
had disrupted his ministry and abused his person. Thus, to read Romans 13 as a 
legitimizing of that government should be held off as our last possible alternative of 
interpretation rather than welcomed as our first. 

4. In the opening line of his "governing authorities" section (13:1a), Paul tells us to "be 
subject" to them. I found Barth most convincing (in our earlier chapter) that "be 



subject to" has absolutely no overtones of "recognize the legitimacy of," "own 
allegiance to," bow down before," or anything of the sort. It is a sheerly neutral and 
anarchical counsel of "not-doing"-not doing resistance, anger; assault, power play, 
or anything contrary to the "loving the enemy" which is, of course, Paul's main 
theme. Then, just as any good writer would do it, Pau\'s final reference to the 
authorities (v. 7) becomes a simple repetition of his opening one: "Pay all of them 
their dues" says nothing different from "Be subject to them." 
5. Romans 13:lb-3 proceeds to speak about government's being "instituted of God." 
When it is a noted Old Testament scholar who is talking so, I consider the original 
institution of Israelite monarchy to be our best help in understanding him. In that 
paradigm (1 Samuel 8), it is made entirely clear, explicit, and axiomatic that the 
people's demand for worldly government amounts to a rejection of God and his 
government. (And if even an Israelite monarchy signified a rejection of God, how 
much more so a Roman one?) But did God therefore conclude: "That being so, 
Samuel, what you and I need to do is resist that government with everything we 
have in us. We should work at subverting Saul's government so that, in its collapse, 
we can convince the people to give up this crazy idea of worldly government and 
come back to the true government of my direct rule"? 

That, surely, would pass as good human logic-and, I think, is the essential logic of 
today's Christian Left. However, it is not the divine logic. God and Samuel, of course, 
helped set up the very government they so strongly disapproved. No, the word is, 
rather: "Samuel, if these knuckleheads insist on having a worldly govemment-we 
had better get in there with whatever influence we have left and try to limit the 
amount of damage such an outfit can do, see whether there is anything at all 
worthwhile we can manage through it." 

God and Samuel accept (and honor) Israel's (bad) decision as accomplished fact and 
proceed to live with it rather than try to reverse it. God accepts (I didn't say 
approves) worldly govemment-with its taxation and conscription and all the rest-as 
being absolutely necessary once humanity has rejected his government. If you won't 
have him, you are going to have it (and thus the sheer naivete of a recent proposal 
from the Christian Left that "now we should challenge worldly government to give 
up its evil taxation and conscription"). Although Scripture never ever gives an inch on 
government's essential illegitimacy before God, neither is the possibility ever raised 
that human piety might be capable of ridding itself of worldly government and 
returning to him. God never even hints at any move of the sort -and undoubtedly 
would find such to be just as serious a usurpation of his power as the original move 
to worldly government was. What God has accepted we would be wise not to try to 
reject. 

So, is Paul correct in saying that the fact that a government exists shows that it has 
been instituted of God? Yes-if he be read dialectically, as with his Old Testament 
source. Paul knows that worldly government is an illegitimate usurpation of God's 
power-knows it as well as God and Samuel did. However, what his well-justified-in- 
hating-Rome readers need also to know is that God accepted his own rejection as 
accomplished fact and thus proceeded to accept (yet hardly "legitimate") worldly 



government as a "given," a human necessity through which he just might be able to 
prevent some damage and perhaps even gain a bit of good. So Paul is warning his 
Christians against thinking they can go God one better: if God has shown himself 
willing to put up with a monstrosity like Rome, your unwillingness to do so turns out 
to be, not moral heroism, but an arrogant bucking of what God has instituted 
(instituted by his accepting it, not approving it). 

6. In verse 4, then, Paul calls these governing authorities "servants of God." Within his 
dialectical framework, he can do this with the best sort of biblical precedent. In this 
regard, the prophet Isaiah has Yahweh say the following about the bloodthirsty 
Assyrian hordes poised to sack Israel: 

I have given my warriors their orders 

and summoned my fighting men to launch my anger; 

they are eager for my triumph. 
Hark, a tumult in the mountains, the sound of a vast multitude; 
hark, the roar of kingdoms, of nations gathering! 
Yahweh of Hosts is mustering a host of war, 
men from a far country, from beyond the horizon. 

It is Yahweh with the weapons of his wrath 

coming to lay the whole land waste. (Isaiah 13:3-5) 

7. Here we have caught Isaiah— in cahoots with Paul-calling representatives of a pagan 
conqueror "warriors (and to that extent 'servants') of God." However, in another 
passage the prophet makes it plain that this carries absolutely no implications of 
"legitimizing": 

The Assyrian! He is the rod that I wield in my anger, 

and the staff of my wrath is in his hand. 

I send him against a godless nation, 

I bid him march against a people who rouse my wrath, 

To spoil and plunder at will and trample them down like mud in the streets. 

But this man's [i.e., the Assyrian's] purpose is lawless, 

lawless are the plans in his mind; 

for his thought is only to destroy 



and wipe out nation after nation. 

When Yahweh has finished all that he means to do on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he will 
punish the king of Assyria for this fruit of his pride and for his arrogance and vainglory, 
because he said: 

By my own might I have acted 

and in my own wisdom I have laid my schemes. (Isaiah 10:5-7, 12-13) 

8. What is here cited as the sin of the Assyrian is likewise the essential sin of all human 
arkydom-the pretension that it is the actions of our own might and the wisdom of 
our own schemes which are determining the course of human history. We use even 
the banner of active Christian love and discipleship to cloak this denial of the truth of 
God's sovereign lordship: In the vainglory of the Assyrian, we say, "By my own might 
... In my own wisdom.... My strength is as the strength often, because my heart is 
pure." 

9. Later, with Deutero-lsaiah and the pagan Persian conqueror Cyrus, the dialectic 
contradiction becomes even more extreme: 

Tell me, who raised up that one from the east, 
one greeted by victory wherever he goes? 

[or for that matter, the one from the west that Paul knows] 
Who is it that puts nations into his power 
and makes kings go down before him? ... 
Whose work is this, I ask, who has brought it to pass? 

... It is I, Yahweh. (Isaiah 41:2-4) 
Thus says Yahweh to his anointed 

[that's the word "messiah," or "christ"!] 
to Cyrus, ... 

For the sake of Jacob my servant 
and Israel my chosen 

I have called you by name 
and given you your title, 

though you have not known me. 



I alone have roused this man in righteousness, 

and I will smooth his path before him; 
he shall rebuild my city 

and let my exiles go free-not for a price nor a bribe 
[but simply because I commanded my servant), 
says Yahweh of Hosts. (Isaiah 45:1, 4, 13) 



10. When Paul calls the Roman governing authorities "servants of God," it makes no 
sense at all to take him as meaning they are good Christians whose deepest desire is 
to obey and serve God. However, read him along with his Old Testament prophetic 
mentors and his entire passage makes perfectly good sense. If God can make such 
use of Assyrian warriors that Isaiah calls them "God's boys"-and if God can make 
such use of a Persian emperor that Deutero-lsaiah calls him "God's messiah"-then 
we better consider that God may be using Roman no-goods in the very same way. 

11. The Old Testament parallel holds throughout verses 2-5. About as much as Paul can 
see as a possible godly use for God's Roman "servants" is that (precisely as with the 
Assyrian warriors) they are quite adept in punishing bad people. (If this is Paul's 
"legitimizing" of Rome, it is a most backhanded compliment.) Just as with the 
Assyrians, the Romans always go overboard on the punishing bit-and God will have 
to take up that little matter with them, just as he did with the Assyrians. Yet this 
does not change the fact that God can use Roman punishment in the service of his 
own justifying of humanity. 

Therefore, Christians of Rome, here is what all this means for you: 

a. You should take care not to be an evildoer whose governmental punishment 
represents the just anger of God you have brought upon yourself. That God's 
"servant of punishment" is himself "bad" is no evidence that you are "good" 
and your punishment therefore undeserved. That the U.S. Government is 
divinely illegitimate is no evidence at all that its punishment of the Berrigans' 
"civil disobedience" is wrong and outside the will of God. The expose of 
Assyrian evil does not amount to an argument for Israelite innocence. Rome 
does punish many innocent people (and God will hold it accountable for that: 
'"Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" [Rom. 12:19]). Yet this does 
not prohibit Rome from being used "in God's Service" to punish some who 
really need it for their good. 

b. Then consider verses 4-5 in particular. Just because you Christians can see 
that the Roman Empire is obviously godless and wicked, don't draw the 
simple, human-minded conclusion that it must be God's will for you to resist, 
contest, and fight it. 

Paul, yes; Isaiah, yes; but Jeremiah is the one most insistent that the pagan 
oppressor is not to be res/sted-precisely because that rod of punishment may be 



acting in the service of God: "Bring your neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon 
[Paul words it 'be subject'], and serve him and his people [Paul words it 'pay 
whatever they claim as their due'], and live. Why will you and your people die by the 
sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the Lord has spoken concerning any nation 
which will not serve the king of Babylon [as actually happened to the Jewish nation 
that ignored Paul's counsel of nonresistance, fought the Romans, and died]?" (Jer. 
27:12-13). 

You could find yourself resisting the particular use God has in mind for that empire; 
at the very least, you definitely are trying to take over and do God's work for him, 
pulling up the tares he told you to leave for his harvesting. When God wants that 
empire overthrown, he is fully capable of doing it on his own. 

And if, in your fighting the empire, you happen to get yourself killed, the fault is not 
necessarily that of the Evil Empire; it does not automatically follow that yours was a 
heroic martyr's death in the service of God. It could as likely represent God's 
righteous anger against those who are just as guilty of wanting to be "lord of history" 
as the Romans themselves are. 

12. So, in verses 5-8, Paul asks us again to "be subject"-always loving; never resisting, 
contesting, trying to impose our own wisdom and will. This is why you pay taxes 
(better: do not resist their being collected), so as not to have Jesus accuse you (as 
Paul got himself accused) of "kicking against the goads" (Acts 26:14)-i.e., trying to 
obstruct God's Roman servants as Paul had been trying to obstruct his Christian 
ones. Never owe anybody-anyboc/y-anything except love. 

No one ever said loving Assyrian warriors was going to be easy; but when you are 
obeying God by loving instead of resisting them, don't let any holy-joes try to make 
you feel guilty by telling you that you are actually approving and supporting Assyrian 
evil. There is not one word in Romans 13, or anywhere else in the New Testament, 
implying that to "not resist one who is evil" (Matt. 5:39) is tantamount to legitimizing 
him-this no more than Isaiah's nonresistance legitimized Assyrian militarism, 
Jeremiah's Babylonian, Deutero-lsaiah's Persian, Paul's Roman, or a modern 
Christian's American militarism. 

Finally, notice that this interpretation of Romans 13 reads as anarchically as all get 
out. It carefully declines to legitimize either Rome or resistance against Rome. It will 
give neither recognition nor honor to any political entity whatever-nation, party, 
ideology, or cause group. There is only one Lord of history-and that is God. He 
shows no cognizance of our commonly accepted distinction between the holy arkys 
he supposedly sponsors and the unholy ones he opposes (though this is not to deny 
that he acknowledges a degree of relative difference between the moral 
performance of one arky and another). Yet, after the model of the Israelite original, 
every arky starts out under the sinful illegitimacy of messianic pretension, claiming 
for itself recognition as world savior and a true lord of history. Nevertheless, though 
the arkys all be under judgment (as all of us individuals are, too), God will use as 
servant whatever arky he chooses (when he chooses and how he chooses). He will 



also punish these servants the same way-even while loving each and every human 
individual involved the whole time. That's Christian Anarchy. 

Matthew 17:24-27 

In Matthew 17, we find a third tax advisory-with a still different (and most powerful) 
rationale to back it up. In this instance the tax in question is named as "the double 
drachma." That rather clearly identifies it as the tax dedicated to the operation and upkeep 
of the Jews' own "temple of the Lord." However, there are three points to note. 

1. The Matthew author gives no attention at all to the tax's "temple" aspect, not so 
much as using the word in his argument. Indeed, he was writing for a post-temple, 
perhaps largely non-Palestinian, non-Jewish audience that would have no more 
inkling that he was talking about a particular "temple tax" than the rest of us would. 

2. He wrote this incident into his Gospel after the temple already had been wasted by 
the Romans. //, at the time Matthew's intended audience read this instructional 
passage there was in effect a "temple tax," it would have been going to the upkeep 
of pagan, Roman temples (F. F. Bruce tells us that the temple-tax-for at least some 
period in some areas-outlasted the temple itself in just this way). 

Thus, what is totally incredible is that Matthew might explain: "I wrote this whole 
passage only to keep the record straight that Jesus, in his day, did himself pay the 
temple tox-which I am aware doesn't even exist for you folks. So I wasn't meaning to 
suggest that the incident has anything to say to us. Not at all; precisely because our 
tax situation is different, we might fairly conclude that he would teach us to withhold 
some of our taxes." 

3. Just as with Mark 12 and Romans 13, the Matthew 17 passage obviously is dealing 
with a general theological-ethical principle. The texts contain not the slightest hint 
that they are meant as contextualist, particularist case studies. Some argue that 
these texts teach only that first-century Christians were to pay particular taxes 
because they were comparatively ben/'gn-leaving us free to assume that Jesus would 
want us to withhold the vicious sort of taxes we face. However, if this method of 
turning Jesus' and Paul's words completely upside down is obedient "biblical 
scholarship," it is a much more reprehensible method than the fundamentalists' 
unscholarly, universally castigated "proof-texting." 

In the Matthew-17 passage, the apodictic, completely open and unqualified question 
is put: "Does not your teacher pay the tax?" The answer is just as unqualified: NOT 
"Well, that's hard to say. Some he does and some he doesn't-it all depends. You'll 
have to be more specific." No, quite the contrary, Peter's answer is a totally 
unambiguous "Yes." 

Well, that clear-cut, abrupt, and quite surprising an answer (as though tax payment 
poses no problem for Christians at all) certainly calls for a bit of explanation and 
rationale. So Jesus comes on the scene to give it: "What do you think, Simon? From 



whom do the kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?" 
And when he said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free." 

Follow this thought carefully; it is the best-ever argument for tax-withholding-and 
straight from the mouth of Jesus. In Romans 13, Paul advises us to "pay taxes to 
whom taxes are due. " The withholders regularly pounce on this phrase to mean "pay 
taxes only to those regimes you decide are good enough to deserve them"--and we 
already have argued that this is a misreading. However, the Matthew-17 Jesus cuts 
through all this relativistic contextualizing about which regime does or does not 
deserve what-and cuts through it in a word: "You and I, Peter, we have but one 
ruler, we recognize the claim of but one lord, know only one caesar as deserving 
anything of us-namely, the Lord God Almighty, our Dear Daddy (Abba). And He 
doesn't charge his own kids any taxes at all! As his children, Peter, we don't owe any 
taxes to anybody-least of all that bum Caesar. We are free!" 

That Jesus is some anarchist! Revolutionary or establishment; left, right, or center; 
good, bad, or indifferent-name what arky you will-and Jesus says, "I belong to my 
Daddy. I am not bound to any arky, owe no allegiance (or anything else) to any of 
them, want nothing from them, recognize no claim by them, deny that they deserve 
anything of me. God's children are free!" In this, Jesus was way ahead of the 
withholders: //(as they would have it) tax payment is to be premised on the moral 
merit of the government presenting the bill, then they ought not be paying any taxes 
to anybody. How disobedient to Jesus to be paying taxes where he clearly decrees 
that they are not deserved-in effect to be denying that we children are indeed free. 

What this means, of course, is that when, in his very next sentence, Jesus says that, 
nevertheless, he and Peter are going to pay the tax, he will be making payment for 
reasons entirely extraneous to the recognition of any arky, honoring its power, 
admitting its claim, affirming its rights, acknowledging its merit. Pay his taxes he will; 
but he is not in any sense legitimizing the arkys and their behavior in the process. 
Neither is he abrogating his freedom. He pays the tax not because he has to but 
because he wants to-for reasons that have to do entirely with his relationship to 
God and not the arkys. 

What seems the case with all three tax passages is most clear and apparent in this 
one from Matthew 17. The argument is dialectical in nature-that is, it operates in 
the tension between two different ideas, neither of which dare be ignored, even 
though neither will neatly correlate with the other. Thus dialectical thinking is 
directly counter to any simplistic moralism in which the difference between right and 
wrong is as obvious as black and white. But catch the movement of Matthew 17: 

STEP ONE (Yes, he pays): "Does the Master pay the tax?" To which Peter responds 
with an unequivocal, "He does!" But that can't be the whole truth. Something more 
just has to be said; things simply are not that quick and easy! Peter's answer creates 
more of an ethical dilemma than it resolves. 



STEP TWO (No, he doesn't): So Jesus comes on to argue that, actually, he does NOT 
pay the tax (in the sense of recognizing himself as under obligation to the assessing 
party-which is what "pay" normally is taken to mean). No, given the essential 
illegitimacy of each and every caesar, Christians are under no constraint and, in 
effect, never owe and thus never pay a Caesar anything. The children are free! 

STEP THREE (Caesar gets his money; but Jesus is guilty neither of paying it nor of 
withholding it): Now Jesus says to Peter: "That we are free means we are free to let 
Caesar take his coin without it representing any 'paying' of him. We are free to love 
our enemy and practice what Barth called the 'not-doing' of NOT being angry, NOT 
assaulting, NOT demolishing, NOT causing offense. Be free then, Peter, to let the 
man have his tax money-without your being made feel guilty by those who accuse 
you of collaboration with evil. Be free to 'resist not one who is evil,' knowing that 
that is the very way of God." 

This argument from Matthew 17 probably should be seen as one instance of the 
great ethical dialectic that pervades Scripture. Its two poles can be defined as 
follows: POLE NEGATIVE is the fact that all the principalities and powers bent on 
governing human society do so in competition with, and defiance of, God. In his 
eyes, they are all illegitimate and under judgment (as they should be in our eyes as 
well). However, because God's judgment is always one of grace, POLE POSITIVE is the 
fact that, even to these rebellious powers, he responds (as we should) "by some 
strange 'not-doing' precisely where men feel themselves most powerfully called to 
action" (to use Barth's wording again). 

The dialectic is indeed a strange one-the decree of God's judgment against the arkys 
being guilt worthy of death; and the action of his judgment for the arkys being 
justification toward life. But, in God's grace, it works. Throughout the biblical history, 
God never legitimizes Israel's monarchy; yet never does he fight against it or try to 
revolutionize it, either. He doesn't even make it his business always to be rubbing 
that arky's nose in its own illegitimacy, forever asserting his holiness in contrast to its 
unholiness. No, his is the wonderful patience and love of NOT being angry, NOT 
assaulting, NOT demolishing, NOT causing offense. 

Consequently, this one must be seen to be believed! Doing things his way, God was 
able to use that God-rejecting, illegitimate arky of David to produce for us the one 
true son of David, the one legitimate King who (in his way, not ours; in his time, not 
ours) will take away all necessity for arky-government with all its taxation, 
conscription, and what all. Hallelujah! There's gonna be a great day. 

The "strange work" of God's NO always is in the service of the "proper work" of his 
YES. Yet whenever we humans try to evade or deny that NO in our effort to go 
directly to the YES, the inevitable result is the blocking-out of the YES itself. 

Whether, then, in the large with this overall dialectic or in the small with Matthew 
17, we come out at the same place. We dare never be guilty of legitimizing the arkys 
God has illegitimized; neither dare we ever be guilty of resisting the arkys (the same 



arkys) God lovingly is trying to help. So no more than Jesus will pay taxes (in violation 
of Pole Negative), no more will he withhold them (in violation of Pole Positive). He is 
careful not to cause offense against God in the first instance-and not to cause 
offense against the arkys in the second. 

We are still talking about Matthew 17 and why Jesus would have us pay taxes even 
to governments that manifestly do not deserve them. In Mark 12, the stated reason 
was "Let Caesar have his coin so he will get off your back and leave you alone to be 
giving to God all that belongs to him." In Romans 13, it was "Let Caesar have his coin 
so that you won't be drawn into the disobedience of failing to love him." Now, in 
Matthew 17, it is "Let Caesar have his coin so as not to be guilty of causing 'offense.'" 

That's a funny one. Who is this Jesus who can tell us not to cause offense (thirteen 
times in seven different books of the New Testament such wording is found) when 
much more frequently the scriptural word "offense" is used to report the offense he 
himself causes-to the point that both Romans and 1 Peter name him as "the Rock of 
Offense"? Scripture must have in mind two different sorts of "offense," and I think 
the concept of Christian Anarchy can help us sort them out. 

Our frame of reference will be this: CHRISTIAN TAX PAYMENT (by which we intend 
an allowing of Caesar to take his taxes-although doing that as a free action which in 
no way grants legitimacy to his claims) is the model of all the offense-causing actions 
of Jesus. Such payment is an entirely theological and anarchical action. It is 
theological in that it is purposed totally as obedience to God, having only him in view 
and nothing or no one else. Conversely, it is anarchical in its total disregard of the 
arkys. The action has no intention that relates to them. If they happen to be there 
and become offended at what Jesus does, that's their business. It was never any part 
of his purpose to get them offended. He had absolutely nothing in mind except to 
obey God. 

CHRISTIAN TAX WITHHOLDING, on the other hand, is an entirely political and arky- 
faith action. It is political in that, without reference to any particular difference the 
presence of God makes, it would use offense as a tactic for influencing events within 
the public sphere of human possibility and probability. It is of arky faith in that it is a 
good-arky action directed specifically against the bad arkys in the confidence that 
they can be powered into improvement. The "offense," now, is deliberate and 
desired-is seen as the very means for achieving political gain. 

Notice, then, an interesting asymmetry that is significant regarding the difference 
between these two ways of offense-causing. Even though, in Mark 12, Jesus winds 
up paying the tax (or at least recommending that it be given to Caesar), and although 
he is not trying to offend anyone, he does manage to offend every arky around, the 
Establishment on the right just as much as the Revolution on the left. And of course, 
all parties-including the disciple community itself— in one way or another became 
offended to the point of finally colluding in his crucifixion. Jesus' is an entirely 
accidental (he was not trying to offend anyone) yet entirely universal offensiveness. 
The arkys en bloc are offended that he gives all his attention to God and none to 



them-in fact, refuses to acknowledge them as even being "of God" (as each knows 
good and well it is). And the moral significance of the arkys' offendedness is this: it is 
a confirmation of Jesus' truth and a judgment of their wrongness in being offended 
by him. The judgment of the arky is that He came to the world and the world knew 
him not-choosing rather to be offended. 

On the other side, the offense-causing of tax withholding is structured quite 
differently. In the first place, it is deliberate rather than accidental, a strategy 
designed precisely to get a bad arky offended. Secondly, it is strictly unilateral rather 
than universal in its effect. The idea is that the action be applauded by one's own 
and all other holy arkys and be offensive only to the bad ones. The offense-causing is 
actually a weapon (an instrument of force) in arky warfare. Yet apparently the 
conviction is that the moral significance is still of a kind with those offended by 
Jesus-i.e., the bad arky is self-condemned by its taking offense at the truth of the 
good arky. 

Given, then, these two utterly different varieties of offense-causing, it should be 
plain that, when Jesus told Peter to pay the tax so as "not to give offense to them," it 
was nothing of his concern that the arkys be protected from becoming offended. 
They are going to be offended soon enough-and there is nothing at all wrong with 
that happening. Rather, Jesus is counseling Peter to remain "anarchical" and not 
enter the arky struggle that uses offense-causing as an instrument for establishing 
the righteousness of one's own arky and bringing judgment upon the opponent's. 
This distinction between, on the one hand, the offense-causing that must happen 
whenever God's truth encounters the arkys and, on the other, the offense-causing 
sought out by one arky to be used against another-this seems to be the key for 
making sense of all Scripture's "offense" talk. "For what credit is it, if when you do 
wrong [i.e., set out to cause offense] and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But 
if when you do right [i.e., show no desire to offend anyone] and suffer for it you take 
it patiently, you have God's approval" (1 Pet. 2:20). 

Although we are continuing our argument, it is at this point we need to open out the topic 
from "tax-withholding" to "civil disobedience in general" (the former being simply a 
particular case of the latter). By "civil disobedience" I now have in mind any deliberately 
illegal action (the breaking of a law) done in the service of the witness and protest the 
Christian feels called to make against a particular evil of the state or society. In due course, 
we will discover that there are other forms of Christian lawbreaking that do not fall under 
this definition; but, for now, our concern is solely with "civil disobedience" so defined. 

"Witness and protest" constitutes the operative term here. The two words are not quite 
synonymous but are so closely related that we will always want both in saying what needs 
to be said. "Protest" (even though the etymology of the word signifies "testify -for") normally 
identifies the complaint against the perceived evil-while "witness" is the more positive 
affirmation of the good alternative being proposed. In itself of course, the action of 
disobedience inevitably communicates more of protest than of witness-though even here, 
there has to be some verbal, cognitive accompaniment if observers are to have any 
knowledge of what is being protested. Thus, when we find a sidewalk blocked with angry 



bodies, we can conclude that a protest is going on. Yet no real protest or witness is taking 
place until someone, somehow, tells us what it's all about. In any case, "witness" and 
"protest" are so closely related in "civil disobedience" that we ought not speak of either 
without thinking of both. 

Let us proceed, then, to analyze and explore "political offense-causing" (civil disobedience)- 
particularly when that is used as a means of Christian social witness and protest. What is its 
economy? What is it meant to accomplish? What is its moral significance and effectiveness? 

Would it be correct to say that the goal of Christian social witness and protest is "to force 
people to face up to the truth about themselves in the hope they will repent and change 
their ways"? Let's use that as our talking point-although a stricter wording would have it 
stated: "to force supporters of a particular arky [say, "peace through nuclear strength"] to 
face up to the evil of that arky and so repent and change their ways [to those of the arkys of 
disarmament, nuclear freeze, or whatever]." Is that a fair enough statement of the matter? 

Let us postpone for a bit our consideration of the phrase "force people to face up to the 
truth" and for now have it read "present to people the truth." Clearly, ahead of our witness 
and protest's "forcefulness and compellingness," the top priority is that its content be "of 
the truth." And if it is indeed "of the truth," the witness and protest should concentrate 
upon presenting that truth so as to be as clear, reasoned, and intellectually convincing as 
possible. "Persuasion" is the goal of any true witness and protest. And for the presentation 
of persuasive content, the best media, I suggest, are those that allow room for much 
information, full exposition, and extended argument. Thus, the best sort of witness and 
protest will take the forms of informal conversation, formal discussion, phone calls, letters, 
letters-to-the-editor, articles, pamphlets, speeches, sermons, books, films-whatever is most 
appropriate to "thoughtful content." If our content is "the truth" (which we ought never 
simply take for granted, just because it is "ours"), and if our target -audience does truly 
become offended over that content, then that offendedness fairly may be taken as a 
judgment against those who heard the truth and rejected it. 

But what do you do when, even if your audience is offended, it fails to convert? This is the 
hard one. I propose that the only thing to do is to admit you do not yet have the votes and 
(hardest of all) admit that, even when you know for a certainty that what the voters are 
doing is bad or wrong, it still is right that the majority rule. If the national majority of this 
country (i.e., majorities in the citizenry, legislature, and administration) feel that increased 
defense expenditure is what is needed, then-hard as it is to agree-that is what ought to 
happen. Undoubtedly (undoubtedly?) we would be better off if (say) the board and staff of 
the National Council of Churches were to take over and run things in their Christian wisdom- 
-yet it would be bad or wrong for that gang (or any other communion of the saints) to take 
office against the will of the majority. No matter how frustrated they may be at having their 
truth rejected, Christians dare never pursue their political objectives by trying to subvert or 
bypass the democratic process. Obviously, that process is in no way infallible— but anything 
else is worse. Or, as Barth put it, "The acknowledged shortcomings of democracy are not 
improved by its abolition." 



No, "persuasion" is the only power truth has, the only power consonant with it. So if 
persuasion isn't working, there is no alternative but to go on being persuasive-there is 
nothing else to do. (It is at this point, by the way, where it is most helpful to have a faith that 
God is the ruler yet, that it is the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom. Then we 
can know that the salvation of the world, the triumph of right, doesn't hinge upon our 
persuasiveness in any case.) 

We have proposed what should happen when our best efforts at rational persuasion fail to 
win the votes; but what does regularly happen at that point? Well, particularly if we are 
convinced that it is only the truth of our witness and protest that stands between the 
world's life and its nuclear death, then we have real trouble accepting that there is nothing 
to do but keep on being rationally persuasive until, if and when, we might possibly win the 
vote. There may not even be enough time for that. We find it morally unthinkable to stand 
powerlessly by and watch evil take its course. We have to try something that might work. 

The most common move at this point is to try to strengthen our witness and protest by 
turning up its volume. As we move from rational persuasion into anger, stridency, 
accusation, denunciation, abusive language, what Ellul called "dramatization," propaganda, 
demand, placard (I consider it manifestly impossible to get a persuasive argument about 
anything into a five-word slogan), demonstration-whatever lies outside "speaking the truth 
in love"-any and all of this is what I mean by "turning up the volume." 

This brings us back to our earlier phrase, "forcing people to the truth about themselves." 
Rational persuasion," of course, does not come under that head, in that it is always careful 
of-even protective of-the opponent's right to disagree and not change his mind until he 
freely chooses to do so. It could be argued that a certain "forcing of people to face the 
truth" is the prerogative of God, Christ, and those prophets who have been licensed to use 
the phrase, "thus says the Lord." But I have grave doubts whether Scripture ever suggests 
that any Christian body has the moral authority to force people to face up to what we take 
to be the truth-or to make "thus say we" the equivalent of "thus says the Lord." Our 
"truth"-particularly our political counsel-dare never be authoritarianly forced upon people 
but always tentatively advanced ("This what seems right to us in the situation, though we 
could be wrong"). 

Notice that "turning up the volume" does not in any way serve the content of our Christian 
witness and protest. The chances of that content being right and true are maximized at the 
stage of "rational persuasion," where the emphasis is upon thought and dialogue. Making 
the witness and protest "loud" only makes it the more difficult to hear, sort out, and think 
through. 

Neither does turning up the volume serve the interests of the persuasiveness of our witness 
and protest. Getting loud marks an effort to overpower the hearer, not persuade him. And 
the world has every right to tell us, "I'm not going to listen to you until you stop screaming." 
"For the anger of man [or even his righteous indignation] does not work the righteousness 
of God" (James 1.20). 



Why, then, this turning up of the volume? What purpose of Christian witness and protest 
does it serve? The answer is "offense-causing." It irritates people. Causing offense is one of 
the most effective ways of getting attention, of goading a bad arky into making some 
response. And, as already noted, we take a bad arky's becoming offended as an indication of 
its refusal to face the truth about itself and thus as a judgment upon its wrongness. 

The problem with this answer, of course, is that the offense caused by turning up the 
volume does not call attention to the truth content of the witness and protest but to the 
offensive behavior of the witness-protester. The persuasive content of the witness and 
protest has been completely drowned out by the noise of the behavior and so is no longer 
even a factor. And if the issue is now the offensive behavior of the witness-protester, then 
the bad arky's offendedness is not a moral judgment against the arky but against the 
witness protester. "For what credit is it, if when you do wrong [deliberately set out to offend 
someone] and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But when you do right [make a 
Christian witness and protest by speaking the truth in love] and suffer for it you take it 
patiently, you have God's approval" (1 Pet. 2:20, again). 

With this we come to the high end of the volume control, namely, the making of one's 
Christian witness and protest through the vehicle of "civil disobedience"-"illegal activity," "a 
deliberate breaking of the law," or whatever. Questions about the Christian economy of civil 
disobedience have puzzled me for a long time: What is the aspect of illegality supposed to 
add to Christian witness and protest? Why is it assumed that one's witness and protest is 
truer and more Christianly faithful for including illegality? What is it about illegality that 
presumably makes the witness and protest more effective? The only answers I can find have 
to do with offense-causing. 

I have been particularly puzzled about this move into law-breaking upon realizing that, in 
almost every case, the law that is actually broken is an innocent one which all parties would 
agree is perfectly just and which no one could claim reasons of conscience for violating. The 
peace movement's tax resisters are not questioning the state's right to legislate and collect 
an income tax. What they are protesting is the use to which a great deal of that money is 
put-regarding which, obviously, the IRS carries no responsibility or influence at all. Actually, 
the quarrel is not with any "law" (unless it be that of majority rule) but with the mind of 
Congress, the Administration, and ultimately the civil majority of the nation as a whole. Yet 
the lawbreaking and the witness and protest are lodged with an agency that isn't even in 
that line of command. 

Similarly, of course, the justice of the law against breaking and entering is not what is being 
challenged by those who invade draft offices; or the law against trespassing or obstructing 
traffic or blocking access to a place of business by those whose demonstrations make them 
guilty of such infringements. The law that is broken has nothing to do with the issue being 
contended-nor does the breaking of that law have any bearing on the truth or falsehood of 
the witness and protest that supposedly is being made. What, possibly, could be the end 
and goal of such action except being offensive for the sake of causing offense? 

And let's look for a moment at the why and wherefore of the offendedness that comes in 
response to civil disobedience. Our democratic process does include the rule that the 



majority shall call the shots-yet this is not its only rule. Along with it goes the rule that, 
before the vote (and for that matter, after the vote, in preparation for the next one) 
anybody, no matter what the cause he finds important, shall be given every opportunity to 
get his witness and protest heard and his hearers rationally persuaded. "Libel" and "the 
fomenting of armed rebellion" may be the only limits. Perhaps no nation in history has done 
better at this freedom of expression, of dissent-at giving a hearing to every possible point 
of view, at making the media and all levels of government accessible to the citizens and 
their various opinions. Neither the Christian peace movement nor any other cause-group 
can complain that it has been denied the opportunity of exercising its witness and protest to 
win whatever voters it can persuade. 

Yet, within this freedom, there is a limit set by our social contract, a gentleman's agreement 
if you will: "I agree to exercise my witness and protest within these bounds and restrain 
myself from going further, if you will agree to do the same." In the present case, "these 
bounds" is the understanding that illegal activity shall not be used as a means of amplifying 
one's witness and protest. And, I contend, the essential offendedness that meets any 
exercise of civil disobedience (whether the content be good, bad, or indifferent) is: "No fair! 
You are claiming for your witness and protest a special privilege which we would never think 
to use in pursuit of our own political objectives. Why, if we were to grant the legitimacy of 
civil disobedience to every witness and protest that thinks itself important, lawbreaking 
would become the order of the day and our whole democratic society fall apart. And for 
sure, we aren't about to grant you exemption on the grounds that your witness and protest 
is Christian." 

It is as if, during a convention debate, with delegates lined up at a mike awaiting their turns 
to speak, some guy were to come barging in to take the floor with the excuse, "But what I 
have to say is important. I will be speaking the Christian truth-not playing around with 
trivialities like you jackasses." You think that might not result in a bit of offendedness? It was 
this fellow's deliberate strategy to break the law of "wait your turn" in order to get special 
attention for his witness and protest. How different is that from grabbing the P.A. system 
("public address system," recall) of civil disobedience out of the conviction that my pet 
cause is so important that the rules of fair play can be suspended? 

If this is not the rationale that legitimates Christian civil disobedience, what rationale does? 
The suggestion that, within our democratic tradition, civil disobedience is an honored means 
of doing politics is indefensible. In that case, is the name of the game now to be "Grab the 
Mike Free-for-AN"? Who has the privilege of taking over the microphone and who not? 

I read the newspaper account of a Quaker lady who said that she had tried writing to 
government officials and doing everything she could think of in the way of a peace 
testimony-but, because nobody had listened to her, she was now ready to move to the civil 
disobedience of tax-withholding (as though the failure of other people to accept her truth 
somehow justified her recourse to questionable methods). I don't think she quite 
understands the democratic process. She is, of course, guaranteed the right freely to make 
her witness and protest-which right she had freely exercised. Yet nowhere was it ever 
guaranteed her that, because she knows her witness and protest to be true, other people 
(and the government as a whole) are under obligation to agree with her. There had been a 



fair vote, and her side lost. She is guaranteed only the right to go out again and win 
whatever votes she can for the next round. 

Neither in the Bible, in the Constitution, nor anywhere else do I find the rule that, just 
because a team knows itself to be "the best" and yet is losing the ballgame, it has the right 
to ignore the regulations and resort to unfair tactics-simply to ensure the triumph of the 
good, the true, and the beautiful. The offendedness with which civil disobedience invariably 
is met would seem to be wholly justified-and without implying anything one way or 
another about the moral status of those who became offended. 

Granted, the evil arky of government (Congress, Administration, and public majority) is very 
good at simply ignoring any minority witness and protest with which it happens to disagree. 
Yet, like it or not, that is its democratic right. I suppose legislators and administrators-and 
perhaps even the populace-have some obligation to read the letters and listen to the 
speeches of the peace people (particularly if those be respectfully addressed); but they are 
under no obligation to agree with them. 

Granted, too, an act of civil disobedience can often serve as a "punch in the nose" to get the 
arky offended enough to give the witness-protester some attention. Yet consider that the 
punch in the nose, the act of lawbreaking in itself, carries no content of its own, sends no 
message of rational persuasion. No, it is only after the brute has come awake that the 
witness-protester has opportunity-in the courtroom or to the press-to explain the message 
of peace, goodwill to men the dastardly poke in the nose was meant to communicate. "It 
was an act of love-for their own good, to force people to face up to the truth about 
themselves-you must understand." 

However, through his chosen tactic, the witness-protester has not created the best possible 
climate for the gentle persuasions of reason and love but actually the very worst. It isn't 
easy to get the ear of a brute you've just given a throbbing nose. For some reason, he tends 
to see the figure before him as a cheat and a rascal rather than hear him as the messenger 
of peace he actually is. The situation has degenerated into a political brawl with any and all 
moral significances totally confused. 

There is now absolutely no way of sorting out how much of the brute's offendedness is 
actually the responsibility of the witness-protester, the brute's justified reaction to the 
offensively intended action of subverting fair play and the democratic process-and how 
much is the truly judgmental offendedness of the brute's refusing to face the truth. So, for 
example, to my mind a trial of the Berrigans is of no moral significance, no revelational/evil- 
exposing value at ail-certainly nothing akin to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus in which the 
world clearly proclaimed its own judgment and condemnation. Quite the contrary, in the 
politics of civil disobedience I can see only two worldly arkys condemning each other. "A 
plague on both your houses," as Christian anarchists would inevitably say. 

The above is my own honest and best effort to understand the economy of and rationale 
behind strategic civil disobedience. I am not happy about the results. If anyone can instruct 
me and propose a more accurate interpretation of the phenomenon, I would be eager to 
hear it. I am quick to grant that most Christian tax-resisters are conscientiously convinced 



they are acting solely out of the desire to be obedient to God. However, I can't see that they 
have much in the way of biblical or theological support for that conviction. And when they 
do undertake to explain and defend their action, it most often is done in the political terms 
of a forceful witness and protest against the arkys of evil. 

My guess is that their logic runs something like this: Very correctly, they believe that 
Christians dare not be guilty of granting legitimacy to establishment evil. But they take this 
to mean, then, that anything less than joining the revolutionary opposition does amount to 
such legitimization. They can't see the third option of Christian Anarchy, because they don't 
really believe there is a kingdom truly "not of this world" which God is perfectly capable of 
establishing in his own time and in his own way. Thus, they have no alternative except to 
join and support those holy arkys which, to their minds, show the greatest potential as 
vehicles of God's kingdom. Their fundamental error, of course, is in assuming that 
humanity's social destiny is limited to the politically possible rather than being controlled by 
a theology of unlimited (even "resurrection") possibility. 

Yet with this, does it not make sense that the Rock of Offense-whose kingdom is indeed 
"not of this world"-would say to Peter: "It is true that we do not owe either tax money or 
anything else to any earthly ruler. The Real Ruler's children are free. Nevertheless, Peter, let 
the collector have the tax he asks and don't try to withhold it. That would be a deliberate 
'seeking to offend' and would only suck us into the political, offense -trading brawl of the 
arkys. At the same time, it would lose us all the moral, revelational, judgment-bringing 
power of Evil's true offendedness at Innocent Truth." 

You don't suppose Peter was remembering that conversation when he wrote, "For what 
credit is it when you do wrong [by intentionally breaking tax laws or other just laws] and are 
beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right [by going out of your way not to 
cause offense, even to the point of paying taxes that aren't actually owed] and suffer for it 
you take it patiently, you have God's approval" (1 Pet. 2:20, one last time). 

NOTE: We need to be clear about the varieties of "Christian lawbreaking" that have NOT 
come into consideration here. The theological action of obeying God even when that must 
involve disobeying an unjust law-such as Paul's refusing to stop preaching the gospel when 
there was a court order for him to do so-this is entirely different from using lawbreaking as 
a political power-play. Such belongs on the "Jesus" side of our distinction between the two 
forms of offense causing. Paul's action wouldn't even have been addressed to the 
government, as an effort to expose and condemn it. In fact, he would have had no concern 
about whether the government became offended or not, he being arkycally disinterested. 
This sort of Christian lawbreaking ought not even be called "civil disobedience." Obedience 
to God is the only end in view, with any disobedience to the state being entirely accidental. 

In fact, let me offer one litmus test for making the distinction: If an action of lawbreaking is 
done solely as obedience to God, then, plainly, whatever media exposure occurs is entirely 
incidental to the purpose. If, however, media exposure is sought and valued, the action 
must have a political, arky motivation that goes far beyond simple obedience to God. 



Although the evidence is that Jesus disapproved the tax-withholding civil disobedience of 
the Zealots, it is not even cases of this sort that we have been considering above. The 
Zealots were oppressed and subjugated people who, except for illegal actions, had 
absolutely no means of witness and protest open to them ("protest" against the Empire that 
was crushing them or "witness" to the Messiah they expected to come save them). Their 
"civil disobedience" was the spontaneous cry of faith out of the midst of their pain. 

As the One who himself uncomplainingly suffered the greatest injustice ever perpetrated, 
Jesus, of course, has the authority to judge the actions of even these desperate sufferers. I 
don't. I certainly am not in position to give a moral opinion regarding situations of this sort, 
and the foregoing has not presumed to do so. We have here been speaking only of those 
civilly disobedient Christians who already enjoy the world's greatest freedom of witness and 
protest but who can't be content with that. No, out of frustration in not being able to 
persuade the world that they're "right," they have seen fit to go further and claim for their 
cause the special privilege and exemption that even worldly politicians deny to themselves. 



Chapter Nine 

THE MODUS OPERANDI OF HISTORY 
Arky and Anarchy 

Corresponding to our basic concepts of "arky faith" and "Christian Anarchy" are two 
completely different understandings of how human history is directed and the economy by 
which it transpires. In particular, we will now address the matter of society's moral progress 
and ethical achievement: How do we expect that "the good" shall become the character of 
social reality?— this whether, at the moment, we are thinking of that "good" in terms of 
world peace, justice, social equity, the elimination of poverty, racial harmony, family life, or 
whatever. 

In this regard, the goal of the chapter is to show how completely Scripture is committed to 
an anarchical rather than an arky view. 

First, the very concept "arky faith" as much as dictates what its theory of history will have to 
be. It is the faith that social good becomes actual as those arkys we perceive to be good 
either displace the established arkys of evil or convert them to good. The political, human 
contest of good arkys against evil ones is precisely history's modus operandi for things being 
made right. Or; in Christian terminology, it is by this means that God's will shall come to be 
done on earth as it is in heaven. 

The vehicle of "the good" certainly is understood as being these God-serving arkys, but let 
me try some other terms to describe the economy of that good's victory. We could call it 
gradualism. That is the Christian version, now), God, through his word, tells us what goal he 
has in mind for us and sets us to the organizational, arky task of gradually learning, 
practicing, promoting, and enforcing the ways of (for example) "peace" until, in time, 
peacefulness becomes the order of the day. The gradualism, of course, is that of moral 
nurture and growth, our becoming more and more adept until we finally achieve what God 
has in mind for us. If we were to express the idea with a chart, it would be a line starting at a 
low point of morality and then— likely with some ups and downs, losses as well as gains- 
gradually rising toward the goal of high-level morality. 

The process could as well be termed "progress" as "gradualism." (I do not necessarily have 
in mind doctrines of automatic or inevitable progress.) The idea is still that of making 
incremental gains until the goal is attained. The principle, again, might be identified as 
"continuance"-since, rather than that of any sort of radical disjuncture ("social revolution" 
not even being radical enough for what we have in mind), the concept is one of unbroken 
passage from starting point to end goal. Finally, the term "triumphalism" would be 
appropriate-indicating the upward movement of good arkys winning out over the bad ones 
(the powers of peace over the powers of war, for example). 

Now, because, in the world (i.e., in secular society), it is hard to conceive what means of 
moral accomplishment there could be other than this gradualistic triumph of good over evil, 
I think most Christians have simply taken for granted that this must be the understanding of 
Scripture as well. 



Our natural tendency is to start from the assumption that "God has no hands but our hands 
to do his work today." Accordingly, we believe that, if God's will is to be done on earth, it 
will have to be done in the way we go about seeing that our own wills get done there. So we 
proceed to read and use our Bibles as manuals of arky triumph through moral progress- 
never once noticing that Scripture isn't with us in any of these assumptions. It understands 
the modus operandi of history in completely different terms. I hope the following study 
comes as something of a shock to you-as it did to me. 

The very term "arky faith"-we have seen-as much as says that progressive triumph in the 
arky struggle is its means of moral accomplishment. The term "Christian Anarchy" is 
different in that the term itself gives no hint as to what its positive way and method will be. 
The term is accurate negatively, however, in telling us that Christian anarchy will make no 
use of the arkys, will not so much as recognize their presence, will accordingly be 
"unarkycal." 

Also, here as previously, Christian Anarchy is going to go entirely with the Arky of God and 
with the Jesus Christ who-Colossians 1:18 tells us-is THE ARKY. And of course, it is precisely 
because Jesus is The Arky that Christians must be anarchistic toward whatever other powers 
claim arky status. 

The anarchical principle now to be expounded as the theme of Scripture we will identify as 
death and resurrection. Our term could as well be grace, in that resurrection, being nothing 
that humans can either work or merit for themselves, can come only from God and that 
never as anything other than a gift of his grace. In this regard, arky faith clearly is a doctrine 
of human works. It can, I suppose, evade the accusation of works-righteousness by claiming 
the grace of God to be that which elects and hallows our arkys and gives them the victory. 
But arky faith certainly never can rate as a "doctrine of grace" in the way Christian Anarchy 
does. 

As the theme statement for our study of death and resurrection, we turn (again) to 1 
Corinthians 15:22: "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." 

When Paul speaks of our being "in Adam," he rather clearly intends "Adam" to be symbolic 
of the universal human tendency to want to dispense with God and his authority and 
determine the course of life and history for ourselves. We do this by depending solely upon 
our own apple-wisdom from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, 
convinced that that makes us morally competent (no question but that we know what is 
good and what is evil) and qualifies us to engineer the triumph of the good. 

Yet the apostle states flatly that the Adamic principle never can be expected to produce 
growth, maturity, and moral development but only deterioration and death. Our "being 
made alive," then (or what we have been calling humanity's achievement of moral probity), 
Paul tells us can come about only through that gracious intervention of God which, because 
of our being "in Christ," resurrects us into "newness of life" right along with Christ himself. 

Thus, the graph of "death and resurrection" will be one entirely different from the 
continuous and gradual ascent of arky triumph. Now the line on the chart will mark a 



deterioration and fall to the low point of Good Friday. It was there humanity died morally 
when our vaunted apple-knowledge had us so confused as to wind up murdering the very 
Arky (the beginning, the primal source) of All Good, the Incarnation of God's Grace, the One 
who was to have been our "Peace." It was in that death, Paul tells us, that we ourselves 
died, were co-crucified with Christ. Clearly, his thought is that the cross marks the spot 
where, in Adam, all died. From that point, it is not through any sort of continuity or 
gradualism but as the completely radical disjuncture of an Easter reversal that God 
intervenes to suddenly jump the line up to the ultimate level of all being made alive. 

Keep this graph before your eyes, for it is now our purpose to show that this death-and- 
resurrection pattern does by no means either begin or end simply with Jesus' Good-Friday- 
to-Easter experience. That, of course, is the high point of the development. But the pattern 
itself dominates the Bible from beginning to end. In a quick run-through, we will now spot 
seventeen different variations on the theme-with the hope that the whole message of 
Scripture will consequently take on this anarchic coloring. 

1. No sooner are we off the blocks than we encounter our first instance-in the third 
chapter of Genesis. Adam decides he can handle life on his own and wants the fruit 
of the tree he thinks will enable him to do it. God tells him that if he eats the fruit he 
will die. Adam eats it and promptly dies (it didn't take long for that line to hit 
bottom). His death in relation to God is signified by his effort to hide from God. His 
death in relation to himself is signified by the burning shame over his own 
nakedness. His death in relation to others is signified by the fact that the beloved 
wife, whom (just verses earlier) he had addressed as "bone of my bones," is now 
referred to as "that blankety-blank you stuck me with, she did it." His death in 
relation to his world is signified by his being kicked out of Eden. End of story. Well, 
yes, it would be-except for the fact that there is a little resurrection text tucked in 
there, verse 21: "And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins 
and clothed them." He picked up the dead and provided them what they needed in 
order to be made alive again. The story can and does go on, but the graph is plainly 
that of God's gracious resurrecting of the dead. 

2. In Genesis 7, there is a flood that drowns the human race in its own sinfulness. As 
verse 23 has it, "Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark." End of 
story. But no, the first verse of the next chapter reads, "But God remembered Noah 
and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark." I once heard a 
sermon in which the preacher argued that the point of the Noah story is that the 
human race always comes through. Baloney! The point of the Noah story is that God 
always remembers. The only hope for any of us who are either drowned by or cast 
away upon the flood of our sins is that God might remember us as he did Noah. The 
pattern is death and resurrection. 

3. In Genesis 22, the command that Abraham should sacrifice his son Isaac spells the 
end not only of that one individual but of the entire promise regarding Abraham's 
descendants. End of story. But suddenly God intervenes to save the situation. And 
"Abraham called the name of the place, The Lord Will Provide." He distinctly did not 
call it, We Can Make It. The pattern is that of death and resurrection. 

4. The name "Jacob" means "the Supplanter." As long as Jacob insisted upon living up 
to his name, his graph was a downward skid that came to its low point when he was 



forced to agonize over what would happen when he faced the brother he had so 
badly cheated. It is at that Gethsemane, then, in wrestling with God, that, in effect, 
"Jacob the Supplanter" had to die in order that the new man "Israel" (the one who 
strives with God until God's will is done) might be made alive. This is a very powerful 
picture of death and resurrection. 

5. The story of Joseph graphs as a downward track from being rejected brother to 
being sold into slavery to being carried away into Egypt to being jailed as a slave in 
far-off Egypt. It is only at this low point that God intervenes to give Joseph the dream 
interpretation that will suddenly spring him into being made alive as a ruler in Egypt 
and savior of his own people. The pattern is not that of gradual human betterment 
but of death and resurrection. 

6. In 2 Samuel 12, King David sins with Bathsheba. In response to Nathan's hooded 
parable, David's own judgment is "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this 
deserves to die." To which Nathan comes back, "You are the man." And this would 
be the end of the story-except for the fact that verse 13 reads, "The Lord has put 
away your sin; you shall not die." David's is the way to death-until God reverses it 
with his gracious resurrection. 

7. The Assyrian invaders are ready to destroy Jerusalem, and in Isaiah 10:33-11:1 the 
prophet describes how the Lord will come in judgment to level that whole forest 
(Assyrian and Israelite trees alike). End of story ... until, in 11:1, "there shall come 
forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse"-of course, the tree of the Messiah in whom 
eventually (as Paul has it) all will be made alive. Here, perhaps for the first time, we 
have death and resurrection as the social pattern of world history rather than just 
isolated instances concerning individuals. 

8. Deutero-lsaiah, then, in the great fifty-third chapter of the book, portrays the 
Suffering Servant of Yahweh who gives his life for the many, then to find himself 
restored and vindicated, even out of death itself. Here-perhaps for the first time- 
we encounter death as the voluntary giving of oneself, rather than committing 
suicide through one's own sin. Yet the pattern is still very much that of death and 
resurrection. The servant does not save himself even by his perfect love and 
obedience; he is resurrected by God. 

9. In his thirty-seventh chapter, Ezekiel has a spectacular picture of broad-scale death 
and resurrection (that of an entire nation) in his vision of the valley filled with dry 
bones. What is so very apparent is that dry bones have absolutely no potential for 
making themselves alive again. Only a God of wonderful power and grace has any 
chance of bringing off this one. 

10. As we come into the New Testament, we find our pattern being presented in some 
quite subtle but very relevant ways. Mark 8:34-35 reads: "If any man would come 
after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever 
would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's 
will save it." 

Jesus' "whoever would save his life" probably has reference to human moral 
triumphalism-and he says that the method won't work. On the other hand, the 
voluntary losing of one's life only to find it saved just has to imply the involvement of 
something on the order of a resurrection. How, apart from a resurrection, can losing 
one's life be made to produce a saving of it? Here-perhaps for the first time-death 



and resurrection is presented as the deliberate principle and model for Christian 
ethics, for the whole of Christian behavior and action. 

11. This brings us to the Gospel accounts of Jesus' own Good Friday crucifixion and 
Easter Sunday resurrection. It is significant that Mark devotes nearly half his Gospel 
just to this event and the Passion Week that forms its context. This death and 
resurrection is, of course, the paradigm to which all earlier variations point and from 
which all the following variations proceed. Here lies the pivot of our whole thesis and 
study. 

12. Paul uses baptism as the connector for making Jesus' own death and resurrection 
the model and motive of our own. In Romans 6, he says: 

Have you forgotten that when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus 
we were baptized into his death? By baptism we were buried with him, and 
lay dead, in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead in the splendor of 
the Father, so also we might set our feet upon the new path of life. For if we 
have become incorporate with him in a death like his, we shall also be one 
with him in a resurrection like his.... For in dying as he died, he died to sin, 
once for all, and in living as he lives, he lives to God. In the same way you 
must regard yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God, in union with Christ 
Jesus, (vv. 3-5, 10-11) 

Think about it. In choosing to be baptized into union with Christ Jesus, you 
renounced any and all faith in gradualistic triumphalism, and signed into the pattern 
of death and resurrection. 

13. In Ephesians 2, Paul brings the pattern over from our personal (baptismal) 
experience and into the experience of society at large. He relates death and 
resurrection to the broad-scale social accomplishment of the reconciliation of Jews 
and Gentiles into the one body of Christ. Given the depth of that animosity, the 
reconciliation marks a feat of "revolutionary social change" such as arky methods 
simply cannot touch. 

Paul makes it dear that this was not a case of some dedicated Christians taking 
courses in conflict resolution and then putting their skills to work in negotiating a 
settlement. Essentially it was the gracious work of the God who "loved us with so 
much love that he was generous with his mercy ... bringing us to life with Christ ... 
raising us up with him" (vv. 4-6). God did it, but he did it through the Christ who 
himself is our peace (v.14). For in his own person he killed the hostility (v.16) by 
restoring peace through the cross (vv. 15-16). Thus, you who were once far off have 
been brought near through the shedding of Christ's blood (v. 13) so as to create out 
of the two a single new humanity in himself, thereby making peace (v.15). 

Here is death and resurrection as God's way even to social reconciliation, equity, 
justice, and peace. 



14. A great advantage of the book of Revelation (and what makes it most appropriate as 
the concluding book of the Bible) is that it portrays the death-and-resurrection 
pattern in a larger frame of reference than we have seen anywhere else. It is 
presented now as the pattern of universal history, the procedure through which the 
kingdom of the world is to become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, the 
means by which the whole of creation is to find destiny in the kingdom of God. 

In Revelation 12:10-11, John describes this victory and tells how it is won: "This [the 
time of Jesus' resurrection] is the hour of victory for our God, the hour of his 
sovereignty and power, when his Christ comes into his rightful rule! For the accuser 
of our brothers is overthrown, who day and night accused them before our God. By 
the sacrifice of the Lamb they have conquered him, and by the testimony which they 
uttered; for they did not hold their lives too dear to lay them down. 

We are talking now, of course, of God's final victory in which Satan himself is 
conquered and all evil-individual, social, natural, supernatural, and cosmic-is 
forever done away. Here is achieved humanity's ultimate state of justice, peace, and 
righteousness. How is it accomplished? Not by our gradual growth in morality, 
obviously. It is accomplished by "the sacrifice of the Lamb," his death and 
resurrection. Nevertheless, John is clear that we humans have our own part to play 
in this triumph. And what is that? We are to testify and bear witness to what the 
Lamb has done. And, the text specifies, that can truly happen only when it is with us 
as it was with Jesus, that we do not hold our lives too dear to lay them down. The 
pattern of our witnessing is to be that of death and resurrection, just as it was for 
the One to whom we witness. 

15. In his eleventh chapter, the Revelator gives the pattern an application to which we 
should pay most careful attention. As we saw earlier in this book, it has been, 
perhaps, in the life of the institutional church that there has been the strongest 
tendency to go the way of arky power and prestige. The customary understanding of 
the call of the church has been that it should grow in size and influence-gradually 
winning the status and following through which it can "Christianize" society and lead 
the world in moral development. 

However, Revelation 11 gives an entirely different picture. In this vision, the faithful 
church is portrayed in the form of two witnesses who, dressed in sackcloth (not 
velvet), make their humble testimony in the face of a profoundly hostile world. They 
are olive trees (fruit bearers) and lamps (light bringers) in the service of their Lord. 
Their way-far from leading to glory and acceptance-leads directly to a self-giving 
martyrdom, from which they are raised up to victory through an explicit resurrection 
by God. The way of the church through the world, John tells us, definitely is meant to 
be that of death and resurrection. 

16. The Revelator then specifies (20:6) that a Christian's personal salvation, his hope of 
eternal life, lies not in any built-in immortality but in a resurrection as real and as 
bodily as that of Jesus himself: "This is the first resurrection. Happy, indeed, and one 



of God's own people is the man who shares in this first resurrection! Upon such the 
second death has no claim; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ." 
17. Finally, in the Opening of his twenty-first chapter, John makes death and 

resurrection the very modus operandi of God's New Creation: "Then I saw a new 
heaven and a new earth." (He could as well have called it a resurrected heaven and 
earth, because he obviously is thinking of renewal rather than a complete junking of 
the old order to start all over from scratch.) Again, "Now at last God has his dwelling 
among men!" A little later "He will wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be an 
end to death [and how could that happen except through resurrection?] and to 
mourning and crying and pain; for the old order has passed away!" Once more, 
"Behold! I am making all things new! [resurrection again]." And finally, "A draught 
from the water-springs of life [resurrection life, no less] will be my free gift [of grace] 
to the thirsty." 

Can there be any doubt that Scripture sees the completely anarchical (arky-ignorant) grace 
of resurrection from the dead as being THE modus operandi of universal history? Is it not 
obvious that it puts no faith at all in the possibility that humanity's sincere arky efforts might 
win the day for God and for the good? 



Allow me now to get my conclusion in here-before you jump to a wrong one. No more 
than, in a previous chapter, the emphasis upon the Christian theology of peace was meant 
to prohibit any secular politics of peacemaking-no more, here, is God's way of history 
meant to prohibit the human arky way of moral development. 

After all, for a world that has chosen not to know God-and thus cannot know, either, his 
gracious willingness or his total capability to resurrect whatever wants resurrecting-for this 
world there is no moral option at all except the one of using our poor apple-wisdom as best 
we can manage, sorting out what we decide is "good" and "evil," encouraging the one and 
discouraging the other. And, of course, it is this lost and needy (though scheduled to be 
resurrected) world the Master has sent us to be in, even while warning us not to be of. 

No, the issue is not that of accepting the one mode of history and rejecting the other. The 
issue is-as Barth had Paul putting it regarding tax payment-that Christians need to know 
what they are doing when they do it. You are involved in the arky contest for the moral 
betterment of the race. But do you know how you got there, why you're there, and what 
you're supposed to be doing while you are there? 

The paramount caution, surely, is that Christians remember they are Christians and not 
worldlings. Worldlings, obviously, have to put their faith— their mouths, their moneys, their 
energies, their enthusiasms, their hopes, their dreams, their confidence, their expectations- 
either in the human potential for moral progress or nowhere at all; they are left with no 
other option. 

Christians, in their turn, must have sympathy for the world caught in this plight and also an 
understanding of why it always must be making such big claims for its preferred arkys. 



These are as much in the way of gods, a hope of salvation, as the world can muster. Yet, let 
Christians once begin falling for this bill of goods and downplaying their Christianity (their 
faith in the lordship of a gracious, resurrection-capable God)-this in the hope of better 
identifying with and being of help to the world God so loves-once start this, and they 
actually are betraying their assigned role, are as doctors rushing off to comfort and cheer 
the patients while leaving their vital medicines behind. Christians must love the world and 
be of active service in it-yet without ever once buying the world's understanding of itself or 
affirming the faith it proclaims. 

So, not, of course, the totality of Christian concern and effort, but surely the totality of faith 
and confidence must center, not where worldlings center theirs, but where we have found 
Scripture centering, in the grace of a God of resurrection capability. If the world is ever to be 
saved, it will have to be God who does it. If God's will is ever to be done on earth as it is in 
heaven, it will have to be God who sees to its being done. As Ellul put it, "Man can't do 
God's will without God." If the kingdom of God is ever to be our human reality, it will be only 
because it is the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom. 

The idea, of course, is common Christian doctrine. My concern is that-as modern Christians 
speak and write about loving the world through political involvement, social action, moral 
development, et a/. -very little of the biblical faith and a great deal of the world's arky faith 
are heard. Is there not good reason to suspect that the Christian priority about what God 
must do and what man can do is being reversed? 

Our study has shown Scripture fully committed to the idea that God's gracious resurrection 
constitutes the one way of salvation (for individuals, for church, for society, for the cosmos). 
Consequently, the arky struggle for morality must be relegated to some lesser function. The 
world, of course, has things just the other way around: the Christian faith is now the 
optional factor which may (for those who feel they need such support) even steel and 
motivate them for the social struggle in which the salvation of the world actually lies. I am 
not bothered that this contradiction in faith priority exists. I am profoundly bothered to find 
people thinking they are being Christian simply in joining the world. We need, most of all, to 
know what under the sun we're doing. 

If, however, according to the Christian understanding, the world's arky struggle toward 
moral betterment is not the way of salvation, then what (if any) positive significance and 
function does it have? 

Regarding this question, the great need of Christians is to become what Ellul calls "realistic," 
seeing things as they actually are rather than as we wish they might be or as per the 
propaganda claims made for them. Thus, it is not simply biblical theology that refutes arky 
faith; an objective, unbiased view of social history refutes it as well. At this, of course, Ellul is 
the expert; I'm not. As we saw earlier, he is explicit that, from his expert observation and 
experience of a lifetime, in spite of all the highly touted messianic movements that have 
been on the scene, he cannot discern that society is making any significant moral progress 
and, least of all, that it is well on the way toward getting itself saved and set right. 



Further, I understand that Ell ul and other realistic historians like him consider that the entire 
history of the race fails to show anything like large-scale, long-term moral progress. 
(Technological, cultural, intellectual progress, yes; but nothing that truly could be called 
"moral.") The moral state of humanity seems to be pretty much of a low-level constant all 
the way through. Certainly, there is movement within the constant parameters. We may 
seem to be making progress on one front-although, at the same time, retrogressing on 
another. Moral gains made at one time don't last; things slide back into their former state. 
In short, our graph of gradual moral triumph is a dream; the historical social data don't 
support it. 

From the viewpoint of Christian realism, then, we need to be skeptical of the continually 
repeated yet always excited predictions humanity is moving into a new age, that we are on 
the verge of a renaissance of justice and righteousness. Such predicters have the very same 
track record as those predicting the second of coming of Jesus-nobody's ever been right 
yet. 

Especially, Christian realists should be leery of the messianic claims made by every newest 
and brightest arky to come along: "Yes, we thought the Maccabean Revolt was it— but it 
wasn't. We thought the Zealot Revolt was it— but it wasn't. The Christianizing of the Roman 
Empire-but it wasn't. The Enlightenment-but it wasn't. The Bolshevik Revolution-but it 
wasn't. The Student Free Speech Movement-but it wasn't. The Sexual Revolution-but it 
wasn't. The Viet-Cong Revolution-but it definitely wasn't. The Here's Life America 
campaign-but it wasn't. President Kennedy's Great Society-but it wasn't. Admittedly, we 
have been wrong in the past. But not this time. This is the one that will turn things around. 
You can take it from us that this one is the real thing. The Feminist Movement is the one 
that will make it. Or Liberation Theology is the one that will make it. Or whatever Harvey 
Cox next tabs is the one that will make it." 

Christian realists need to know what is going on here. These are the confessions of faith, the 
glorifying of god-on the part of those who, not believing in the true God, face total despair 
for the world's future unless they can find something in which to hope. The common name 
for the action is "whistling in the dark," or what Isaiah calls "praying to a god that cannot 
save." Christians, of course, should feel great sympathy for people caught in such a bind- 
even while steering completely clear of their enthusiasm for the arkys they take to be 
inspired by the god they look to for salvation. 

But if the arkys cannot save, does that mean the whole human arky struggle for moral 
betterment has no significance, no value at all? 

By no means! Actually, it turns out that Lewis Carroll's looking-glass chessboard is an 
entirely accurate picture of humanity's moral universe. As the Red Oueen explained to Alice, 
"Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." 

The human race is just that-a "race." Humanity is not racing toward the kingdom, certainly. 
It is racing to hold its place, to keep itself held together where the Father can find it when 
comes the time for him to give it the kingdom. And this, we should know, is a desparate 
race. I don't think most people appreciate how precarious is the status of humane existence 



and human morality. And I do not have in mind particularly the nuclear threat. My opinion is 
that there are moral threats that could be just as devastating and are moral threats even 
more imminent than that physical one. For what shall it profit us if we gain the whole world 
(by preserving its physical existence) and forfeit its moral life? 

So, Christian realists don't have to accept the arky rhetoric about this or that messianic 
cause turning the world around and leading it into a new age-in fact, they had better not. 
They do, however, have a Christian calling ("As thou didst send me into the world, so I have 
sent them into the world"-John 17:18) to be in there among the arkys, doing whatever can 
be done (like holding fingers in dikes) to prevent the whole schmeer from flooding out and 
turning to mud. Christians need to be there. But, just as important, they need to know what 
they are doing while there. They are not there to join the worldlings in their arky faith but to 
ignore the arkys in the service of God and neighbor. 

Take me, for example. I am what is known in the trade as "an educator." I have put in my 
time and am currently a minion in good standing of that Grand Old Arky EDUCATION--of 
which they don't come any more arkyish in claiming primacy for the salvation of society. In 
education, lama professor, a doctor of theology, author of the world's only book on 
Christian Anarchy, which you likely have seen (here being the only place I can safely make 
that statement), and no end of other such dignities-with all the rights and privileges 
thereunto pertaining throughout the civilized world, as the president put it so neatly upon 
granting me my B.A. When it comes to EDUCATION, I am-as it might but probably ought not 
be put-one of the boys. 

However, given to that arky though I be, I consider that I am still quite anarchical in my 
attitude thereunto pertaining. I am in the arky but in no way o/it. To my mind, I have not let 
the world of education push me into its arky mold but have been transformed by a renewal 
of my mind to prove what an unacceptable worship EDUCATION is. Rather than its molding 
me, I have been out to make a few gaps and fissures (or to expose the gaps and fissures) in 
its structure. Above all, I try to view the educational endeavor realistically. 

For instance, although both an alumnus and a longtime professor, I have never for a 
moment bought the propaganda line (public relations department) that La Verne is the 
greatest little college in the world. It is not. It is no better, and, I hope, not a whole lot worse 
than any number of other colleges of its sort-and neither love nor money will get me to say 
anything different. 

I do not share Walter Rauschenbusch's turn-of-the-century social-gospel faith that 
education inevitably spells growth in moral understanding and that, therefore, the 
establishment of the American system of universal public education would be the making of 
a godly nation. I don't buy the commencement-address idea that what this old professor has 
been doing all these years is influencing young lives toward the purity and goodness he 
himself represents. The greater likelihood is that the kids have corrupted me. I don't accept 
the college's mission statement as earnest money. I laugh at the thought that, out of these 
portals, we are sending a new generation destined to claim the world for truth and right. If 
that is what education is supposed to do, why didn't it work any better for the generation of 
student volunteers that went out singing / Would Be True; Follow the Gleam; True-Hearted, 



Whole-Hearted, Faithful, and Loyal; and Lord, We Are Able. If moral idealism is what makes 
it, that would have been the generation. This one isn't even interested in such sentiments. 

I hold no illusions. I could point out any number of students for whom an education has 
done nothing-except enable them to make more money. I could point out students who 
would have better been left uneducated; their added "smarts" only make them more 
dangerous. I don't claim to have turned any lives around, made any students "better 
persons" than they already were on the way to becoming on their own. Our educated world 
of today is in no way morally superior to uneducated worlds of the past. It may even be that 
education has created new moral problems of its own. 

Yet in no way do I regret having given my life and energies to education. My hope is that 
things may not be quite as bad as they would be if I had not been there with my finger in the 
dike (even if, like as not, it turns out to have been the wrong dike, the dry dike, anyhow). 
But that's all right. I'm convinced I've been where God wanted me. I have no problem in 
confessing myself the unworthiest of servants, because neither my self-worth, my salvation, 
nor my hope of the world's salvation have ever been attached to arky performance. I have 
run the good race-not the race to get anywhere but only to keep things in place and not 
lose any more ground than we have to, which is as much as can ever be expected from the 
arkys. And if this assessment is realistic, I am much happier with it than with what is bound 
to be the extravagant unreality of my retirement dinner. 

Something of this sort, I contend, describes the Christian's role among the arkys-an 
important role, yet one completely anarchical and not at all according to the arky's own 
terms. So / have been in education; but my faith has never been in EDUCATION. It doesn't 
have to be, because I've already got a better God than that. I have one who can save. So, 
regardless of what my arky service comes to, I am with my anarchist brother, Ellul: "I may 
have had opportunity at times to bear witness to Jesus Christ. Perhaps through my words or 
my writing, someone met this savior, the only one, the unique one, beside whom all human 
projects are childishness; then, if this has happened, I will be fulfilled, and for that, glory to 
God alone." 



Chapter Ten 

ON WAYS MORE THAN ONE OF SKINNING CATS OR 
ACCOMPLISHING OTHER GOOD ENDS 

I think I understand why so many Christians find some sort of arky faith to be absolutely 
essential to their creed. The logic, heard on every side, runs thus: If the good people (we 
Christians, of course) don't organize (as holy power blocs) to bestow (read: "impose") our 
goodness upon the world, no improvement will ever take place and society will simply 
continue its slide into hell. The argument assumes there is only one possible way social good 
can happen. 

It may come as a surprise to hear that I am quick to agree that this is the correct and, 
indeed, inevitable conclusion-if we are supposing that political reality (i.e., that of human 
probabilities and possibilities) is the only reality there is; that God has no hands but our 
hands; that ours is not a God who takes it upon himself to intervene in humanity's public 
affairs. If God is left out (or edged out) of the picture, then it undoubtedly is correct that our 
one and only hope of social salvation is for good people with their messianic arkys to 
struggle against the forces of evil in order to install a new and just regime. 

If this is indeed our only hope, we ought at least to be honest enough to recognize just how 
forlorn a hope it is. As we have seen already, from a theological-biblical perspective, Karl 
Barth has shown how presumptuous and wrongheaded it is for any crowd of human beings 
to claim they have such mastery of, and such facility with, "the good" that they can power it 
into place as the society of peace justice. 

Also, we have seen that the idea of a just revolution of the saints is by no means an 
invention of the late twentieth century but has been tried time and time and time again. 
And yet, whether such revolution succeeds or fails, more often than not the social gain is 
zilch— or less! The direct-action method of messianic arkys is hardly by its track record. 

Finally, we have heard the personal testimony of Jacques Ellul-a saint as qualified as any, 
both as a biblical theologian on the one hand and a sociopolitical scientist on the other-who 
labored for years in different attempts at the Christian transformation of society and came 
away with the opinion that the method is unrealistic and unworkable. 

Nevertheless, if this be the only possible way of getting the cat skinned, we will have to go 
with it-no matter what. Yet honesty would compel us to admit that our hope, now, is little 
better than no hope at all. 

However, for at least the last couple of chapters, I have been trying to bust us out of this 
closed, constricted, no-option system that says, 'There is only one way; if it's going to be 
done, we are the ones who will have to do it out of our own resources." Hear then the 
gospel, the liberating word of God. 'There is more than one way to skin a cat" (I'm certain 
it's in there somewhere; my concordance must be faulty). 



Politics is not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There is also theology 
that can speak of actual, sociopolitical differences made by the presence of God. There is a 
modus operandi of history different from that of the human-bound method of gradual 
increments toward moral triumph-that, of course, being resurrection made possible by the 
grace and power of one who is Wholly-Other-than-Human. 

In this chapter, I want to describe how another way can and did work in a matter of radical, 
broad-scale, structural social change usually thought of as being the special province of 
revolution and the class struggle. 

We already have heard but need again to be reminded that Christians can do and have done 
a great deal of good in the way of social service and action-and that without at all forming 
political power blocs, without taking an adversarial stance toward any government or social 
institution, without presuming to condemn or fight anybody. Modem liberationists are 
wrong in sneering at these efforts as being insignificant compared to their big push to turn 
the world right-side-up. 

In fact, although the results are neither quick nor spectacular, it may be that social service 
has a better record in effecting even structural change than has revolutionism. Not through 
pressure and imposition, but simply through modeling, the service presence cannot but 
have some ameliorative effect upon the social structures around it. Would it be correct to 
say that-no matter how bad off some of these nations may be at present-there is no 
country into which Christian missionaries and service workers have gone that is not now 
better off in the way of social justice than would be the case if that Christian presence had 
never been there? Revolutionary liberationism is not the only method of effecting helpful 
social change. There is more than one way.... However, the case study here presented 
speaks of a way that is a much more direct action than simply Christian modeling. 

In another of my books (Towering Babble, pp. 169-79) I developed what I called "voluntary 
self-subordination" as being the uniquely Christian way-not necessarily for skinning cats but 
for accomplishing many other good ends. Just the verbal contrast between this phrase and 
"arky contest" is, of course, conspicuous. But as the rubric of this concept-its most 
fundamental and essential statement-l cited Jesus' solemn decree from Mark 8.34-35: "If 
any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 
For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the 
gospel will save it." Although we haven't time to say more here, that book develops the idea 
in depth and demonstrates that it does indeed characterize the whole New Testament. 

Now it is my observation that a goodly number of modern Christians are willing at least to 
consider voluntary self-subordination as a method of operation for their personal, one-to- 
one relationships with other individuals. However, when it comes to political reform, radical 
social change, human liberation, the accomplishment of social justice, or whatever you 
choose to call it, they don't see the method as having relevance or applicability at all. On 
this level, they believe "justice" can only be spelled "political contention for equity." 

In this regard, then, Jesus and the New Testament become something of an embarrassment 
to the liberationists. According to their view, Jesus (and the New Testament believers 



proceeding from him) should appear in the role of modern-day reformers out demanding 
and contesting for the just society. The trouble is they don't fit the mold and can't 
convincingly be made to do so. 

The embarrassment, then, becomes acute with the realization that the early church lived in 
a society where the terrible injustice of human slavery was common practice. Yet, rather 
than fighting or even protesting this evil, the church apparently condoned it-and that not 
only in the life of the larger society but even within its own circles. And it follows that Paul's 
little letter to Philemon may represent the greatest embarrassment of all. Here, 
circumstances as much as force the apostle into a direct confrontation with the institution 
of slavery-and he appears to poop out completely. He makes no move to protest the 
injustice of the practice, speaks not one word in condemnation of Philemon's being a 
slaveowner, makes not a hint of a witness to social justice and human rights. 

However, I read Philemon quite differently from what the liberationists do. So I now 
undertake to establish this minuscule missive as the very model of social justice 
accomplished through distinctively Christian self-subordination. It is a picture of liberation 
and social change so radical that the proponents of arky justice haven't had a glimmer of 
what it's all about. 

Philemon is a most frustrating book-a brief personal note that doesn't begin to tell us what 
we need to know in order to understand it. As much as we do know is this: Paul is writing to 
his friend Philemon regarding Philemon's slave, Onesimus. Yet, although he belongs to 
Philemon, Onesimus has just spent time with Paul and is now carrying the letter from Paul 
to his master. 



Philemon lives at Colossae and is a leader in the church there. Whether there or somewhere 
else (the book of Acts never places Paul at Colossae), Paul had apparently converted 
Philemon and become his close Christian brother. There seems little doubt that Colossians- 
Paul's letter to the church at Colossae-and this note to a private individual in Colossae 
belong together. Most likely, Tychicus, one of Paul's lieutenants, delivered the letter to the 
church, while Onesimus delivered the note to his master (Col. 4:7-9). 

At the time of his writing, Paul is in prison-although he isn't thoughtful enough to tell us 
where. Because the matter has something to do with the rest of the story, we are going to 
guess that he is in Ephesus. (Acts never has Paul in prison in Ephesus, but it does have him 
spending enough time in the city that an imprisonment would not be incredible. It is not like 
Paul to stay out of jail for two years in a row.) What makes Ephesus a good guess is that it is 
the major metropolitan (and Pauline) center nearest the little town of Colossae, about a 
hundred miles off. It is, accordingly, by far the likeliest spot for a Collasian slave to try to lose 
himself-as well as have a chance of coming upon Paul. Then too, it is the most likely spot 
from which Paul would write that he hopes soon to be released and would Philemon have a 
guest room ready for him (v. 22). 



Onesimus, we know, is Philemon's slaveboy ("my child, whose father I have become" Paul 
calls him in v.10, which could make Onesimus as young as a teen-ager). The name 
"Onesimus," by the way, is based on the Greek root meaning "beneficial," "of benefit," or 
"useful." It is a name an owner might well give to a slave in the hope of its influencing his 
character. Paul does word play with the name in both verses 11 and 20. 

Onesimus is Philemon's slave. Yet he has just been with Paul in Ephesus rather than 
Philemon in Colossae. Paul opines that he has been "useless" rather than living up to his 
name "useful" (v. 11). And Onesimus's returning to Philemon raises questions as to how he 
will be received. Only this much the letter actually tells us, but it can hardly add up to 
anything other than "runaway." We don't know whether Onesimus knew (or knew about) 
Paul and so sought him out through the Ephesian church, or whether he just happened to 
be thrown into the same jail cell with him. In either case, he is now not only a spiritual son 
but even a working colleague of the apostle. 

In the note Onesimus delivers, Paul is probably asking three things of Philemon: (1) At the 
very least, he is asking that Onesimus be received with kindness and forgiveness rather than 
with the treatment customary for a runaway slave-legally, anything up through torture and 
death. (2) Surely, he is also asking that Onesimus be released from slavery ("no longer as a 
slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother"-v. 16). And (3) there are strong hints 
that Paul wants Onesimus released to come back and serve with Paul at Ephesus (vv. 13, 20: 
"I want some benefit (some 'Onesimus') from you"). 

This is as much as the epistle itself can tell us. So let me now try an interpretation. 

In running away from his master, the slave Onesimus was doing precisely what modern 
revolutionism says he should do. He was moving to effect his own liberation-get out from 
under terrable oppression and claim the equity of being a freeman alongside Philemon. 
Although it was a slave revolt of only one person, it was an entirely praiseworthy one-a 
blow against gross injustice and a move toward a truly just society. This is liberation 
theology-and a model of what all slaves should do. So, far from feeling any sort of guilt, 
Onesimus should have been proud of what he had done. 

Of course, I don't know how Onesimus did feel, but let's assume he felt good about his 
thrust toward freedom. Yet the evidence would indicate that, particularly after he became a 
Christian and began to learn from Paul, he started to have second thoughts. His way of 
getting liberated did not leave him as free as he had expected. Running away, he must now 
have sensed, left something to he desired as a freeing action. Being a runaway slave is 
neither as secure nor as relaxed a position as one might hope. Always to have to be looking 
over your shoulder to see who is coming to get you can hardly be the truest sort of freedom. 
And I wonder whether anyone can ever run away or lie or cheat or kill-even in the name of 
freedom-without feeling pangs of remorse and guilt in the process. 

Further, as a Christian, Onesimus must have realized that his act of freeing" himself had to 
have had a reverse effect on Philemon. Onesimus's grab for equity inevitably would have 
created an adversary alignment and made Philemon "the enemy," who now had been put 
down, cheated, robbed of a valuable possession he undoubtedly had acquired in all honesty. 



No, there were all sorts of things about Onesimus's new freedom which just could not be 
right. 

So, with Paul's help (although certainly not at his demand), Onesim us freely chose another 
method of liberation-that of voluntary, Christian self-subordination. He decided to go back, 
to exercise his freedom by giving it up, to save his life by losing it. 

Think what this action had to mean for Onesimus. Here was a runaway slave-guilty from 
every legal standpoint-offering to put himself at the mercy of his offended master. His only 
defense is a scrap of paper signed with what he hopes is the magic name, "Paul." It is hardly 
likely that Onesimus stood afar off and sent Tychicus in with the note, awaiting Philemon's 
response before deciding which way to move. Hardly. Onesimus must have himself handed 
that note to Philemon, putting not just his hard-won freedom but his very life into jeopardy 
and ready to accept whatever might result-fully convinced that, whatever did result, this 
was the only way to true freedom. 

Consider, then, that Onesimus's original running away had not been a truly free action-it 
was too much motivated by self-interest, too much driven by self-serving needs and desires. 
It was rather his going back, his voluntary subordination, his willingness to lose his life for 
Christ's sake and the gospel-only this was free in a way no other action could be. 

Onesimus's earlier running away had not been a freeing action, either. We already have 
imagined the side effects that led him to want to undo that one. We can be certain, 
however, that his going back did create all sorts of freedom. We can say that even without 
knowing how Philemon responded-and bear in mind that we don't know. All we have is the 
note; Scripture gives us not one word as to how it was received. And this is how it should be. 
Onesimus's action was right, no matter what the consequences. My belief is that Onesimus 
would have wanted to go back-would have felt himself freed in going back-even if he had 
known ahead of time that he would be returning to slavery, torture, and execution. Yet, 
even at that extremity, consider the freedoms that would have ensued. 

Through his act of repentance, reconciliation, restitution, and asking forgiveness, Onesimus 
would have freed himself from the guilt of his previous action. He would have freed his 
relationship to Philemon of all its animosity, ill will, and adversarial conflict. And although it 
does not figure into our customary calculations, don't assume that a dead slave is for that 
reason unfree. Because he had acted as a child of God, Onesimus had guaranteed for 
himself the coming revelation of what his sponsor Paul called "the glorious liberty of the 
children of God." What Paul wrote to the Galatians he could as well have addressed to his 
Philemon-bound friend: "For freedom Chist has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not 
submit again to a yoke of slavery [slavery to what the world calls 'freedom')." Most 
certainly, Onesimus is included when Paul says, "For he who was called in the Lord as a slave 
is a freeman of the lord." We have all sorts of arky-liberated people running around who 
don't begin to know the sort of freedom experienced by the Christian slaveboy who may 
voluntarily have gone to his death. 



Because the success of voluntary self-subordination is not measured by its outward results, 
the story of Onesimus is right-is the very model of Christian action-even though we don't 
know what consequences there may have been. Yet this, of course, is not to suggest that 
the outcome had to he that of enslavement and death. Indeed, the probability is quite 
otherwise. Paul, apparently, was a rather good judge of character; so, if he was reading his 
pal Philemon at all correctly, then Onesimus likely was soon on his way back to Ephesus with 
Tychicus. It would take a pretty tough nut to resist the blandishments and loving arguments 
of Paul's most crucial effort in salesmanship. I don't think there's a chance in the world that 
Philemon could have held out against it. And finally— and to my mind most conclusive-is the 
fact that the letter survived. 

Think about it: If anything had happened to Onesimus other than his being freed and sent 
on his way to Paul, who would have wanted to save the letter? It was saved, obviously. So 
who would have wanted it? Well, it belonged to Philemon, and he undoubtedly valued it. 
Yet my guess is that (except for his Christian inhibitions) Onesimus would have knocked him 
down and taken it, if Philemon had shown reluctance about giving it up. After all, to 
Philemon it was a nice letter from a friend; to Onesimus, however, it was his reprieve from 
death and charter of freedom. In any case, that note was preserved for some period of years 
until it could be incorporated as a one-of-a-kind entry in the New Testament. 



Is that the story? Well, maybe so and maybe not. New Testament scholar John Knox is the 
one who ferreted out what may be its continuation. We have to go clear beyond the New 
Testament now, but there is more. 

Fifty to sixty years after the most probable time of Paul's writing, there was, in Syria, a 
Bishop Ignatius who was apprehended by the Romans and escorted overland to Rome, 
where, eventually, he was tried and executed. Because Ignatius was a prominent figure in 
the church, as his party came to (or even close to) any Christian locales, the congregations 
sent out representatives to visit and offer him hospitality. After he arrived in Rome, then, 
Ignatius sent "thank you notes" to a number of the churches that had hosted him. These 
letters-dated about A.D. 110-have been preserved (not in the New Testament, obviously, 
but as some of the earliest Christian literature outside the New Testament). One of them is 
addressed to the church at Ephesus; therein, Ignatius waxes eloquent about the welcome he 
had received from the Ephesian delegation headed by their Bishop Onesimus. 

Hold on! Don't go jumping to conclusions until I tell you; then we can all jump to the 
conclusion at once. There is nothing in the way of positive proof, and Onesimus is not a 
completely rare name. Yet the place and timing are right. If our slaveboy went back to help 
Paul in Ephesus, he could have worked his way up in the congregation and been a seventy- 
some-year-old bishop at the time Ignatius came through. 

Moreover, in the first six paragraphs of his letter, Ignatius names Bishop Onesimus three 
times and refers to him eleven other times. And it is in this same section of the letter (and 
not elsewhere) that scholars also pick up subtle echoes of the language of Paul's letter to 
Philemon-including one play on the word "benefit" that is almost identical to Paul's. 



Apparently, Ignatius knows the Philemon letter and is teasing its language into his 
compliments of Bishop Onesimus. You can decide how conclusive that is in proving that 
Ignatius knows which Onesimus the Ephesian bishop is, but I am ready to jump. Now! 

Here, we must move beyond Ignatius, but the plot continues to thicken. Scholars are pretty 
well convinced that the letters of Paul did not come into the New Testament one by one, 
from here and there. The greater likelihood is that someone became interested in Paul at an 
early date and made inquiries among his congregations as to whether they had any of his 
letters and would be willing to share copies. It would have been, then, this earlier Pauline 
collection that was introduced into the New Testament as a unit. 

Where would such collecting most likely have taken place? Among the Pauline 
congregations, Ephesus is as well situated and thus as good a guess as any. And who is most 
likely to have been the moving spirit behind such a project? Why not Bishop Onesimus?-he 
has as good a reason for remembering and loving Paul as anybody (and a whole lot better 
reason than most). But with this suggestion, now, we get a real nice answer to one of the 
most troublesome questions regarding the epistle to Philemon. Within the Bible, it is a 
unique specimen-a brief personal note addressed to a private individual on a matter 
involving neither the life of a congregation nor the teaching of the faith. So why should it be 
in the New Testament? And how did it get there in the first place? 

Without recourse to "Bishop Onesimus," I don't see that those questions are answerable. 
With "Bishop Onesimus," they become easy. If Onesimus is the collector of the Pauline 
corpus, he would, of course, be eager that "his" letter be part of it. Likewise, the Ephesian 
congregation would very much want this letter included, as a gesture of respect and 
gratitude-and a matter of record-regarding their own slaveboy bishop. The very presence 
of the letter within the New Testament canon may be the strongest proof that the Ephesian 
bishop of A.D. 110 is indeed the very same person as Philemon's slave. 

Earlier-under the possibility that Onesimus actually was returned to slavery and executed- 
we portrayed the minimum of freedom, liberation, and justice that might have resulted 
from his going back. Now-whether or not it is the maximum— we have portrayed just how 
incredibly far God may have taken that slaveboy's Christlike decision to take up his cross and 
go back. And Onesimus's personal rise in equity from slave to bishop is only a starter. The 
Ephesian congregation seems to have received the godly leadership that not only made it a 
strong church but may even have spelled its survival into the second century (it is not 
evident that all of Paul's congregations lasted so long). Most of all, it may be that God used 
Onesimus's going back to give us the Pauline one-fourth of our New Testament and so 
preserve an understanding of the faith that has been of untold value in the life and history 
of the church to the present day. When God is in the picture, who's to say how "useful" one 
"Onesimus" can be? 

But more! I am ready to say that-in a proleptic, representative way-the example of 
Onesimus marks the truer freeing of more slaves than all the emancipation proclamations 
ever proclaimed and all the class warfare ever warred. In this case God sounds the death 
knell of slavery (all sorts of slavery) for the whole of creation for all time. There is not the 
slightest doubt that the Christian church-the Onesimian church-went on to become the 



greatest force for freeing slaves the world has ever seen. And it strikes me that the 
Onesimian method of ending slavery is the only sure method of doing so. The secular way of 
"revolutionary arky contest" may be quicker and more spectacular, but it is also far less 
dependable, carrying all sorts of negative side effects. Emancipation proclamations and civil 
wars may create a degree of justice and eliminate some aspects of slavery. But they also 
create all sorts of animosities and hatreds, leave battlefields strewn with corpses, and take 
us out of slavery only to put us into Jim Crow. 

The Onesimian approach is much the more powerful. It may take a while, but no slaveholder 
can forever hold out against the loving persuasions of a Paul, the loving self-sacrifice of an 
Onesimus, or the loving Spirit of an Almighty God. That owner actually has a much better 
chance of resisting political pressure and the violence of class warfare. Moreover, the 
Onesimian way, rather than demanding the denunciation and destruction of the moral 
dignity of the slaveholder; offers him a gracious way out. Onesimus was liberated without 
Philemon's having to be demeaned in the process. Best of all, of course, to go Onesimian 
leaves everyone involved-slave, owner, and apostle-as brothers in Christ. The side effects 
are all positive, without a trace of contention's negativity. 

Yet the most essential distinction, I suggest, is this: The political struggle for liberation is 
posited wholly on human wisdom, idealism, and moral ability. It thinks there is only one 
way.... It operates in a closed system that neither seeks nor expects anything more than its 
human methodology can be calculated to achieve-though seldom do the final results come 
to even that much. Human beings (and especially well-intentioned doers of good) are noted 
for overestimating the power of their own piety. 

With Onesimus, things are quite otherwise. Because his was a theological action taken at 
the behest of God, in the service of God, through the Spirit of God, with the enablement of 
God, and to the glory of God- this action invited God in and urged him to make of it what he 
would. The results? Completely incalculable-even to the preserving of the Pauline gospel 
for the ages. There is absolutely no telling how much good, how much social change, how 
much freeing of slaves, how much gospel, how much kingdom, might follow from an 
Onesimian laying down of One's life for God. 

Finally, then, consider how totally Onesimus's was "another way"-an anarchical way 
bearing no likeness at all to the accepted arky method of skinning cats. Not one of the 
characteristics of arky faith is to be found. 

To be sure, slaves are freed and the classless society is formed. Yet, throughout, each of the 
principals (slave, owner, and attendant theologian of liberation) acts and is acted toward 
simply as the human individual he is-brothers three, only that and nothing more. No one 
(least of all the theologian directing the action) tries to use Onesimus as symbol of the 
"oppressed but righteous poor" whose consciousness of injustice must be raised to the 
point that he will join the class struggle. Paul, rather, convinces him to quit "fighting it" and 
go back-even into slavery. No one (least of all the theologian directing the action) tries, 
conversely, to use Philemon as a symbol of "the evil, oppressing, slaveholding class," 
exposing his injustice as a means of recruiting class warriors to fight against him. No one 



(least of all the theologian directing the action) has any interest in anybody's fighting 
anybody, in even seeing the matter as an adversary alignment. 

The problem of human slavery is, of course, a political one. But our "theologian of 
liberation," being truly a theologian, says, "There just has to be more than the one political 
way of skinning this cat (i.e., the way that is limited to human probabilities and possibilities). 
Let us act theologically (i.e., in a way that both obeys God and, at the same time, invites him 
into the action). Let's try it that way-and see where God chooses to take it." 

So they did. And so He did. And just see how far it went. You know, it's true: There is more 
than one way.... 



Chapter Eleven 

JUSTICE, FREEDOM, AND GRACE 
The Fruits of Anarchy 

Justice, Freedom, Grace-these three-and, biblically, the greatest of these is Grace. 
Necessarily is this the case because, biblically, both Justice and Freedom are actually gifts (or 
creations) of God's Grace. And thus, though our arky-faith theologies of liberation are so 
very strong on Justice and Freedom, even in this they are biblically flawed, for the fact that 
they do not have (and cannot admit) the reality of Grace to serve as source and context. 

Biblically, "justice" is the end result of God's making things right according to his definition 
of "right"-and "freedom" is Paul's "For freedom Christ has set us free." It follows that both 
biblical justice and biblical freedom, from the outset, are assumed to be consequences, or 
end products, of God's work of grace. Apart from grace, justice and freedom are impossible 
goals. 

For a starter, then, we need to work at the concept of "grace." At several different points, 
Paul calls grace a "gift." And that's fine; grace always is a gift and, by definition, cannot be 
anything else-such as a reward. Yet we should be careful not to turn the phrase around to 
say that any and all of God's gifts are of the character of grace. To do so weakens grace by 
broadening it out over too much territory. 

When we think of God's "gifts," for instance, or say a table "grace" (a poor word for what it 
identifies), most often we proceed to thank him for the blessings of this good earth (for 
health and strength and daily food), for family, friends, etc. Now those are all certainly fine 
gifts; they are your many blessings that should be counted one by one. Yet, if we stop with 
those, we have not yet touched what Scripture intends by grace. To avoid confusion, we 
would do well to identify those things as "blessings"-the fruits of God's "beneficence"-and 
reserve "grace" for that gift of God which goes a whole level deeper and represents a 
radically different quality from these. 

My Dictionary of New Testament Theology tells me that, clear back with the Old Testament, 
the Hebrew word for grace identified not simply "nice gifts for nice people," but rather the 
rescue operation of pulling out those who were far gone-even if they had created the 
predicament for themselves, even if they had rejected the Lifeguard's advice and been 
insulting to him in the process. 

In Romans 5:12-18, the apostle Paul gets the New Testament concept of grace even more 
closely defined. There he suggests that grace is God's restoring us to life after we have 
committed suicide-made ourselves dead-w\th our sin; our defiance of God; our 
unwillingness to accept his love, help, and guidance. 

Obviously, Paul cannot be thinking simply of physical death when he includes himself and 
his alive and breathing readers in the words "so death spread to all men because all men 
sinned." His thought, certainly, is that all of us are already dead. I take him to mean, 
therefore, that-as far as having any chance of making it on our own, of being able to avert 



the degeneration of ourselves and our society, of having the capacity to get ourselves alive 
again through self-invented means of artificial respiration-by any of these indications we 
are as much as dead. Unless there should come the grace of God, we're dead. 

In that situation, we have no grounds at all for expecting that such grace will be 
forthcoming. In dying as we all have done, we simply have been getting what we asked for. 
After we have treated him so badly, God is under no obligation at all to jump in and rescue 
us, no obligation at all to give life to those who have already refused it from him in 
preferring their own brand of death. 

l-along with Paul and Henry F. Lyte-am ready to affirm that "change and decay in all 
around I see." From where I stand (and from the newspapers I read) it seems plain that we 
live (if you can call it that) in the midst of a dead (or at least far from "living") humanity. 
Indeed, who can dispute the strong note of Scripture that, were it not for innumerable past 
rescue operations of God's grace, the human race would not have survived as long as it has? 
No, Paul is right: In /Warn-that is, on our own, on the basis sheerly of our own inherent 
piety and power-none of us, either individually or corporately, shows the ghost of a chance 
of making it. We are the dead and the dying. 

Thus, in an earlier chapter, we examined arky faith's modus operandi which sees history in 
terms of human moral accomplishment-and, over against that, the anarchical modus 
operandi which sees it in terms of death and resurrection. Implicit in that analysis is also a 
social justice that could be both defined and established without recourse to any concept of 
God's grace over againstone that can't come otherwise than through God's grace. We 
implied that ressurection is perhaps the one word in the dictionary that can be spelled in no 
way other than g-r-a-c-e. 

Similarly, in our previous chapter, Onesimus's first try at freedom (through the arky method 
of rebelling and running away, the freedom that proved so much less than satisfactory)-this 
freedom did not call upon or make any use of grace. Yet, of course, in his second try at 
freedom (in the completely unarkycal action of voluntarily going back) Onesimus was doing 
nothing other than throwing himself upon the grace of God. Clearly, only that freedom 
founded upon grace proved real. 

Both arky faith and Christian Anarchy are committed to "justice," but only anarchy 
understands that justice needs grace. Both arky faith and Christian Anarchy are dedicated to 
"freedom," but only anarchy understands that freedom, also, needs grace. Paul, then, gives 
us another presentation of grace that may explain why, in our arky faith, we so often find 
grace unwelcome and even threatening. 

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the overwhelmingly wonderful "visions and revelations 
of the Lord" he had received. But, he recognizes, these very blessings easily could make him 
feel self-important and think too highly of himself. So he says, "To keep me from being too 
elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of 
Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord 
about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my 



power is made perfect in weakness.' I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that 
the power of Christ may rest upon me." 

Two points here are plain: 

1. "Grace" is an utterly theological concept. Ultimately, of course, 'The power of Christ" 
is the power of resurrecting the dead, the power of bringing back those who are far 
gone. No more than Paul could manage the taking of the "thorn" from his own flesh 
can the world devise its own equivalent of grace that would effect a "de-thorning" of 
itself. No, grace comes from God or it isn't grace at all. 

2. The only possible receptor of divine grace is human weakness. As long as anyone is 
feeling elated about himself, self-confident and self-sufficient, there is no way he will 
even consider the possibility of grace-even if God be perfectly ready to proffer it. 
One simply cannot know the grace of being rescued, of being resurrected from the 
dead, if he hasn't been willing to admit that he's out of his depth, that he's in 
trouble, that realistically he's dead. No, human weakness is the one true 
counterpart, the only possible receptor, for divine grace. 

Arky faith, we now will see, is actually prohibitive of grace on both these counts. Earlier we 
made the distinction between the political (that which operates entirely in terms of human 
possibilities and probabilities) and the theological (that which operates solely from the 
premise that there is a God whose presence makes a decisive difference even in public 
affairs and the course of history). Arky faith (by definition, the belief that the outcome of 
history is determined by the victory of good human arkys over the bad ones) is essentially 
political in nature. So arky faith can't manage any real concept of "grace," because grace can 
have no source other than God and arky faith is ultimately a faith in human possibility rather 
than in a gracious God. 

Yet Paul's second point is even more directly relevant. Because arky faith presupposes 
struggle and contest as the given means of the good's victory in history, the arky vehicles of 
that good as much as always must operate out of strength. Weakness (or sin) is the last 
thing a contending arky can afford to confess of itself. Yet self-defensiveness, the strong 
assertion of one's own righteous deserving, is the hallmark of our age, whether on the level 
of the individual or of our corporate arkys. Because either "justice" or "freedom" (as we are 
wont to define them) lies precisely in "fighting for your rights," gaining what you or your 
befriended constituents deserve, the requisite action must be that of establishing at all costs 
the moral strength and superiority of your own good arky over against the guilt and moral 
weakness of the opposing bad arky. Obviously, in such a setup, even the idea of grace will 
be a threat to the very possibility of justice. For me to admit in myself any sort of weakness, 
defect, or sin calling for the ministrations of God's grace would also, in effect, be giving 
ammunition to my enemy. To admit that I am dead and that this death is what I truly 
deserved would be to put me out of the contest completely. Arky faith simply cannot afford 
the idea of grace. 

This "gracelessness" shows up on another level as well. God's grace toward us (what we 
shall call "vertical grace") clearly is meant to spin off as graciousness among ourselves (what 
shall be called "horizontal grace"). Of course, horizontal grace is not at all the same 



phenomenon as vertical grace: we humans have neither the power nor the will that can 
rescue or redeem another, and certainly nothing that can actually resurrect the dead. 
Indeed, we might do well to identify the horizontal variety simply as graciousness and 
reserve the term grace for the vertical variety alone. 

Nevertheless, there is a likeness and a relationship. "Graciousness" is the awareness of our 
own weakness that makes us willing to go easy on the weaknesses of others, the awareness 
of logs in our own eyes that makes us lenient regarding specks in other people's. Graciously, 
we are ready, now, to be patient with them, understanding of them, nonjudgmental toward 
them, forgiving of them, willing to overlook what we otherwise would be inclined to make a 
big fuss about. And there is a second side of graciousness that is just as important. It is the 
readiness to recognize and appreciate all the graciousness that has been shown me- 
perhaps even by some of my enemies. 

The connection between divine grace and human graciousness is a direct one. Finding the 
idea of grace subversive of our efforts toward justice, we have never truly been open to the 
experience of God's grace toward us. And never having really known grace there, we don't 
know what it calls for or feels like on the horizontal plane, either. Living in a social dogfight 
in which everyone is out to get the bone to which he knows he's entitled, we find horizontal 
graciousness to be just as inappropriate as the vertical sort. We live in a world that has no 
room for grace. 

Of course, when it means being gracious to people we like, there's no problem. Yet grace is 
truly grace, not where it comes easily, but only where it comes very hard indeed. (And don't 
suppose that we are such nice people that God must find it easy to be gracious toward us.) 
But I must say I have been frightened at times to discover how mean and just plain graceless 
good Christians can be toward the bad people they have come to designate as "enemy." 

One small example will show what I have in mind. Some time ago now, President Reagan 
spoke before a conference of professional women and, obviously in an effort to be friendly 
and complimentary, said something to the effect that women are to be credited with having 
civilized the race, getting the poor, barbaric males out of the cave and into some decent 
clothes. Whether the president's remark was a boo-boo or not, it was received any way but 
graciously. Rather than being willing to overlook anything, those women plainly were intent 
to pick up on anything they could make a scene over-which they proceeded to do. 

Had the speaker been a woman and made the remark, the likelihood is that it would have 
been greeted with laughter and applause. Had it been made by almost anyone other than 
President Reagan, even if the wording were perceived as being a bit awkward and 
insensitive, it would have been graciously overlooked. No, plainly it was not the remark but 
the identity of the speaker that brought forth viciousness where there should have been 
grace. 

You see, long before the president entered the room, these women (whether rightly or 
wrongly) had him identified as a "bad guy," "the enemy." And according to the rules of arky 
contest, when you spot a weakness in the enemy, the thing to do is latch on to it, dramatize 
it, and exploit it to his humiliation and loss. Otherwise, to practice graciousness-overlooking 



and forgiving an adversary's weakness-would be to miss a good chance for casting the first 
stone, passing up a made-to-order opportunity for exposing his wickedness and advancing 
one's own righteous cause. Is it not true that today's enthusiastic fight for justice and 
liberation actually brings with it a loss of felt need for God's vertical grace, at the same time 
introducing an ugly gracelessness that poisons our horizontal relationships? 

However, in contradistinction, my earlier book, again (Towering Babble, chaps. 6-7), 
includes a detailed study of the biblical traditions of justice and, by implication, freedom. 
"Justice," there, turns out to be nothing like our fight for equality and human rights, our 
good arkys gaining power over and demolishing the evil ones. No, that concept of justice is 
seen to be an inheritance from our secular juridical tradition-which is not to deny that it 
may well be the highest concept of justice of which political thought is capable. But, 
biblically and theologically, "justice" is the situation created when the one true "Judge 
Jehovah" renders a "judgment" that has the effect of "justifying" and making right whoever 
and whatever needs "justification." The biblical concept does not presuppose an adversary 
alignment and nowhere has in view this business of one set of "just" people breaking the 
power of another "unjust" set. In consequence, directly contrary to the political concepts of 
justice and freedom, the theological ones find grace not to be excluded but deliberately and 
necessarily included. 

Just a couple of the texts cited in that study can be taken as typical and used to make the 
point here. Isaiah 1:21-27 is pointed and powerful: 

How the faithful city 

has become a harlot, 

she that was fill of justice! 
Righteousness lodged in her, 

but now murderers. 
Your princes are rebels 

and companions of thieves. 
Everyone loves a bribe 

and runs after gifts. 
They do not defend the fatherless, 

and the widow's cause does not come to them. 
Therefore the Lord says, 
I will turn my hand against you 

and will smelt away your dross as with lye 

and remove all your alloy. 
And I will restore your judges as at the first, 

and your counselors as at the beginning. 
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. 
Zion shall be redeemed by justice. 

Notice that, with the rebellious princes on the one hand and the fatherless and widows on 
the other, we have the makings of an oppressing-versus-oppressed class distinction. 
Unfortunately, there being on hand no "theologian of liberation" to spot it, to raise the class 
consciousness and instigate the class warfare, nothing of the sort develops. Even more 



unfortunately, Judge Jehovah's moral standard being what it is, everyone is found guilty and 
there is not left the makings of a holy arky, a Justice and Freedom Party he could elect to 
contest the arky of evil. With no help to be had from any of us good people, God sees no 
alternative but to create justice in his own theological, anarchical way. 

It is plain that that way does involve punishment, retribution, and the breaking of the power 
of the evil arky. However, because that evil arky is universal in membership, God's is an 
entirely different action from one human arky taking it upon itself to wreak righteous 
judgment upon another. It is precisely in this regard that Markus Barth once explained why 
the New Testament forbids us to act as judges toward one another, demanding rather that 
we leave all vengeance to God. 

Even Isaiah's "punishment language" makes clear that the ultimate intention behind it is 
cleansing; and the progress of the passage then moves to a redemption that could as well 
be called "resurrection." What Barth pointed out is simply that, in our justice-making zeal, 
we humans rate among the best in passing out righteous condemnation, damnation, and 
punishment. However, when it comes to the justifying finale of redemption and 
resurrection, we just do not have the wherewithal (haven't the remotest beginning of a 
wherewithal). So, if there is no chance of our seeing the justice-process through to its 
justifying conclusion, we would better let God do it his way from the outset. 

However, the major point to be made is that, where political justice necessarily is 
prohibitive of grace, theological justice, God's justice, is as much as synonymous with grace. 
God's justice is not a program that has the party of the innocent-oppressed contending to 
get what they deserve; it is a program that has every party involved being justified (made 
right) quite apart from anyone's deserving anything. "God's justifying of whoever and what 
all will accept it": call that "justice," call that "freedom," call that "grace," call that 
"resurrection," it all comes to the same thing. Admittedly, the Isaiah passage opens with a 
justice of God that damns Zion. Yet that in itself leads to and concludes in the line 
proclaiming that justice shall also redeem Zion. If I may say so, such "grace-justice that 
redeems"-that is indeed one rare justice-one hardly to be found among us or even our 
holy arkys, one obviously to be found only in the God who invented and controls both 
justice and grace. 

A second citation— this one from Isaiah 45:19-23-will make the concept of "grace-justice" 
even more explicit. Biblical talk of justice always has reference to "Judge Jehovah" as the 
one whose "judgment" eventuates in the "justification" of the guilty defendant. Accordingly, 
the mental imagery which may be in the background of all biblical justice talk (and which 
moves into the foreground with some frequency) is that of a trial transpiring in Judge 
Jehovah's courtroom. And that is a Hebrew courtroom, we need to bear in mind, not a 
Graeco-Roman or Western one-there's a difference. The following picture is one of the 
Bible's best-one that Paul brings over into Philippians 2. 

I the Lord speak the truth, 
I declare what is right. 
Assemble yourselves and come, 
draw near together, 



you survivors of the nations! 
They have no knowledge 

who carry about their wooden idols, 
and keep on praying to a god 

that cannot save. 
Declare and present your case; 

let them take counsel together! 
Who told this long ago? 

who declared it of old? 
Was it not I, the Lord? 

And there is no other god besides me, 
a righteous God and a Savior; 

there is none besides me. 
Turn to me and be saved, 

all the ends of the earth! 

For I am God, and there is no other. 
By myself I have sworn, 

from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness 

a word that shall not return: 
"To me every knee shall bow, 

every tongue shall swear." 

There is enough juridical terminology scattered throughout this passage to make it certain 
that the courtroom metaphor is meant to control the whole. There is only One who is 
qualified to serve as Judge of all the earth, who not only can say what justice is but also is 
capable of bringing it to be the actual state of affairs. The defendant in this instance is not 
God's own city, his own people unfortunately gone wrong, as was the case in our previous 
text. No, here the defendant is that truly no-good outfit of "the nations," "the Gentiles"-the 
absolutely evil arky that had regularly oppressed innocent Israel, that Israel continually had 
to be fighting, whose damnation and destruction Israel sought as "justice." 

The Judge knows very well that this defendant is as guilty as can be-guilty of the number 1 
sin and ultimate injustice of trying to evade the Judge by setting up wooden idols and 
praying to gods that cannot save. Apparently this defendant has already taken some 
punishment in consequence; he is identified as the "survivors of the nations." Even so, 
completely contrary to Israel's own sense of arky justice (passages like this one just cannot 
be explained as creations of Israelite culture), the Judge introduces himself not simply as 
"Judge (righteous God)" but as the Judge who is likewise "Savior." Who can say whether 
"justice" or "grace" is the more prominent theme here, when the two are, in effect, 
congruent? 

But the courtroom-indubitably the place of judgment-is here presented as also being the 
place of grace and salvation. It is the place where not merely the "oppressed" can hope to 
find justice, but where the ends of the earth (including, of course, the "oppressors") can be 
saved by turning to the Judge (who, we are quick to grant, was, in the same trial, also their 
condemner). That Judge's final, sworn decree is that his courtroom will stay open until every 



knee bows in recognition of the fact that he is the Judge whose grace-justice not only can 
but will and has saved and justified to the uttermost. 



"There's no denying that what you've just shown us from Isaiah is a wonderful theological 
vision. The trouble is that it is so theologically idealistic as to be entirely irrelevant to the 
real political world in which we live and in which we must do our seeking of justice. The evil, 
oppressing arkys against which we must contend are themselves so totally impervious to 
anything like 'grace' that, in the struggle, it would be sheer foolishness for us to try anything 
like a gracious approach to them. Really, it's too bad; yet the fact of the matter is that the 
world is so locked into the ways of power-justice that we have no alternative. Isaiah's will 
have to remain what it is, a wonderful theological vision." 

I disagree. The above objection actually sells God short. In rebuttal, allow me to present 
another "trial" story-this one under the title "The Grace of the U.S. Government." And if the 
pairing of "grace" with "the wicked, oppressing arky of the U.S. government" strikes you as 
the height of outrage and ludicrousness-well, that only shows you need to keep reading. 

Of course, what immediately must be said is that grace is the wrong word and that what I 
actually have in mind is "The graciousness of the U.S. Government." As a Christian anarchist, 
I am under no illusion that any human arky (including the church) can so nearly approximate 
God as to communicate anything remotely resembling justifying, redeeming, resurrecting 
grace. Obviously I have in mind only the spin-off of horizontal, human-level graciousness- 
though goodness knows, even this much is an entirely rare commodity in the setting of arky 
contention for justice. Specifically, then, my story is meant to show how the practice of true 
Christian Anarchy can lend an air of graciousness even to political arky confrontations 
normally marked by contention, accusation, and ill-will. Christian Anarchy seeks justice in a 
spirit entirely different from that of arky faith. 

I actually have better reason than most to think very ungraciously of the U.S. Government. 
I've been under its gun. Actually, it was son Enten rather than I personally who was under 
the gun, but I was standing close enough to be mighty uncomfortable. We are speaking, of 
course, of the government that indicted him for following his conscience in declining to 
register for its military conscription. It then put him through a full-fledged (and highly 
publicized) federal trial where, before the world, he was found guilty and convicted as a 
felon. 

I was in the courtroom as a witness for the defense and was closely informed regarding all 
the action outside the courtroom. I can speak for one who has been done to as a designated 
"enemy" of the U.S. Government. All the official papers bore the heading: THE UNITED 
STATES OF AMERICA versus ENTEN VERNARD ELLER. This was the setup for a power struggle 
in which all the power was on one side-and in which all the right to define and enforce 
justice was on one side, too. As an arky contest, this one didn't promise to be a very fair 
matchup. At least with David against Goliath, the kid wasn't pacifistically inhibited from 
slinging pebbles (or mud). 



Let it be clear that, as I now proceed to speak of the graciousness of the U.S. Government, I 
am in no way legitimizing that arky as being of God, am in no way suggesting that it is above 
criticism. Shortly following the trial itself, I published an article in which I made my witness- 
protest, speaking to the points at which I felt the government to be dead wrong-such things 
as the calling of a registration that is of no practical military value; calling a registration in 
the absence of any perceived emergency; enacting legislation that does not recognize or 
make any provision for religious conscience; and, in a way completely disproportionate to 
much more serious crimes, making non-registration a felony punishable by five years in 
prison and a $10,000 fine. 

Yet that is only half the story-and sheer honesty (quite apart from any graciousness on my 
part) demands that the other half be told as well. 

(I am choosing, now, not to name anyone by name-except Enten, of course. It is not that I 
am reluctant to give credit where credit is due, but that I very much do want to give credit 
where it is due. Thus, it is not so much that we are dealing with a number of exceptionally 
nice individuals who should be credited by name. I will be quick to confess that neither 
Enten nor his father belongs in that category. Rather, we are dealing with an exceptionally 
nice God who ought at all times be named by us; to that end, I am keeping the human 
names in the background.) 

First, it must be said that, all the way through, Enten spoke and acted toward the 
government in an entirely gracious manner. His non-registration was totally a theological act 
of obedience to what he understood to be the will of God-and not at all the political "civil 
disobedience" of mounting a power protest against the wickedness of the state. He made 
no effort to call attention to his "just cause" or to try to make the government's cause look 
bad. We are grateful that Enten was enabled to act so and thank God for making such 
conduct possible. 

Enten knew, of course, that his Bible forbids him from going to law. So, not having perfect 
freedom in that matter, he did the next best thing and prohibited his attorneys from 
mounting, on his behalf any sort of legal challenges to the law or the actions of the 
government. His idea was that the trial should deal exclusively with his act of non- 
registration and the rationale behind it-and not be turned into contention with the state. 
As is quite understandable, the attorneys were not a little frustrated-and so opened their 
case by complaining a bit to the judge and explaining that the defenselessness of the 
defense would be owing entirely to Enten's Christianity and not to any lack of adversarial 
will or skill on their part. 

However, the judge figured a way to get around Enten's peccadilloes (and thus show that it 
was he, and not Enten, who was running this trial). At the conclusion, in announcing his 
findings of fact, His Honor also took opportunity to educate Enten's attorneys and everyone 
present by listing the challenges and arguments he thought might be effective with a judge 
if he were a defense attorney (and if Enten were to let him mount them). It could be that 
the judge was a little jealous, thinking that in this particular case it would have been more fu 
to be on the defense than to have to be the judge. He did speak of the "agony" of judging 



this one-though I didn't feel too sorry for him, knowing that many other of the participants 
were undergoing agonies of their own. 

However, at no point did government representatives show anything but respect and honor 
toward Enten. At no point did the government try to strengthen its case by accusing him of 
malice or by trying to blacken his reputation. Now, the government knows how to do that, 
of course-knows how to play "adversarial put-down" just as well as the peace movement 
does. The government could have done that. The fact that it did not can be credited only as 
horizontal grace. 

I think I am correct that never in the course of the entire case was Enten confronted by an 
armed officer of the law. He was never arrested, handcuffed, or held in any sort of custody. 
Such, of course, is hardly accepted procedure with accused felons. It was indeed gracious of 
the government to recognize that a show of force was not appropriate in Enten's situation. 

The closest thing to an officer of the law would have to have been the FBI agent in charge of 
the case. He was the witness for the prosecution in proving that Enten had not registered 
(although the trial time could have been cut in half simply by asking Enten whether he had). 
During the agent's cross-examination by the defense, the attorney asked him whether he 
had met Enten personally, and could he identify the defendant in the courtroom as being 
the non-registrant. In answering, the agent let drop the fact that he had a daughter who was 
a student at Bridgewater College along with Enten. (He didn't say whether he had used her 
as a spy and informant to report on Enten's wickednesses.) He then went on to support his 
identification of the defendant in this way: The agent, it turns out, is an elder in the 
Presbyterian church where he resides. One Sunday he was at church when the Bridgewater 
touring choir gave its concert. He noticed Enten's name on the program, figured out (I 
guess) who was the most criminal-looking kid of the bunch, and went up and introduced 
himself during the picnic that followed. 

This whole story came from the witness employed by the government to show Enten to be 
as guilty as possible. When I related it to a colleague who teaches in our University Law 
School, he opined that to voluntarily introduce this sort of information before the court and 
the press was indication enough that the government wasn't all that serious about nailing 
Enten to the wall-which is indeed a graciousness. 

There were two prosecuting attorneys in the trial, both of whom had earlier interviewed 
Enten, politely and caringly warning him of what could happen if he continued to turn down 
extended offers for him to register. At one point the judge asked Enten whether he hadn't 
even made friends with the prosecutors. Enten would almost admit "friends" but wasn't 
quite ready to go to "bosom buddies." However, one of those prosecutors opened the trial 
by averring that the government was not in any way questioning the sincerity of Enten's 
conscientious objection, the legitimacy of his religious views, the right of any group to 
advocate pacifism, or, in particular, the integrity of the Church of the Brethren and its 
position. 

The other prosecutor closed the government's case with these words: 



Everyone in this courtroom by now knows that the young man has not registered, and that 
his decision was made over a long period of time. I gather that everyone is persuaded that 
his decision was made intelligently, it was made by him carefully, and it was made with a 
considerable amount of counseling. The government does not today, and has not, 
challenged the sincerity of this young man's convictions. We do not claim or believe for one 
minute that the beliefs he has presented are a sham. We are persuaded he does indeed 
hold them. 

Now, when, in any trial, the job of the prosecution is to prosecute- to put the defendant in 
the poorest possible light and make him out to be as guilty as it can-this sort of testimony 
comes through as high-level graciousness. Indeed, at some point in the proceedings, a 
journalist friend of Enten's who was seated in the press section (which took up the whole of 
the jury box and half the gallery) overheard the veteran Associated Press correspondent 
whisper, "This is the strangest trial I've ever seen." 

The high-water mark of prosecution graciousness came in its cross-examination of the 
defendant. Instead of trying to score points against him, the prosecutor spent the time 
handing points to him. He began by expressing appreciation for the candor and openness 
Enten had shown all the way through and got from Enten the agreement that the 
prosecution had been "up front" in its turn. It was he, the prosecutor (and not the defense) 
who put it into the record that, even before Enten had been indicted or was under any sort 
of legal obligation, he had provided the prosecutors with his summer itinerary so he could 
be found without difficulty. 

Although both in the press and from the public Enten had been accused of being a publicity 
seeker; it was the prosecutor (and not the defense) who revealed to the court that, early on, 
there had been a telephone conversation in which the defendant and the prosecution 
agreed that neither would seek media attention in making a public issue of the case. He 
then volunteered that Enten had fulfilled that pledge and received Enten's confirmation that 
the government had, too. Here, I suggest, the government was recognizing an all-important 
distinction between Enten's Christian Anarchy and the holy-arky "civil disobedience" with 
which it must regularly contend. The arky effort needs media coverage as the empowerment 
of its challenge to government wickedness; Enten wasn't challenging anyone, so neither 
needed nor wanted any help from the media. 

Then, the judge-as much a representative of the U.S. Government as anyone else, recall: 
Almost as soon as the defense had its turn, while I was on the witness stand, the judge 
interrupted with a comment indicating that he saw the case as I was interpreting it— as 
having nothing to do with how good or bad Enten might be, but as a conflict between 
religion and the law. 

Later, in the process of supposedly "examining" Enten, the judge got turned around actually 
to initiate an argument and help the defendant formulate it, namely, that Enten didn't even 
have an opinion as to whether God willed anyone else to join him in not registering, and 
that, in effect, he was not representing any power bloc and wanted no part of any. Here 
again, as I understand it, the government was pushing a second all-important distinction. 
"Civil disobedience," of course, is eager to recruit participants and amass supporters as a 



show of power. Yet, not even being in a power game, Christian Anarchy says only, "I must be 
obedient to what God wants from me-quite apart from what anyone else thinks or does." 

In the formal announcement of his conclusions, the judge-as a finding of /act-said this: "I 
find further that, as of this time, he cannot conscientiously register with the Selective 
Service System." Of course, Enten had been catching all sorts of flak about being unpatriotic, 
a traitor to his country, and whatever. It may have been with this in mind, then, that, during 
the sentencing, the judge made a point of saying: "It seems to the court that this is a classic 
clash between your religious beliefs and the law of the land. I'm sure you love your country. 
I'm positive of that fact. I'm sure you love the people of this country." And his final words in 
the courtroom that day were these: "I think the defenses you have raised-or the defenses 
you haven't raised and so forth-have made you certainly an honorable person within the 
eyes of this court. And I think that your appearance here underscores that." 

There is more graciousness in the trial that could be reported. But when the person 
customarily addressed as "Your Honor" in effect bestows that title also upon the defendant 
he has just found guilty, that's grace (or at least a high level of human graciousness). There's 
nothing requiring a judge to undercut his own verdict by explaining it away, saying in effect: 
"I have to find you guilty of a felony, Enten; but I am ready to say loud and clear that I don't 
consider you a felon in any sense of the word." You tell me whether, in that trial, Enten was 
convicted or acquitted. 

In his decree, the judge set as one of the terms of Enten's probation that, within ninety 
days, he must "comply with the registration requirements." For this part of the story you 
need to know that both of Enten's attorneys had, over the years, had close associations with 
the judge. Also in the picture is a man we shall call "the Shadow"-a good friend of mine, a 
Brethren attorney who had also been a longtime friend of the judge and who consequently 
was in touch with him throughout the case. 

As Enten's time for compliance was running out, through the Shadow the judge leaked to 
Enten that it was 99 percent certain he would go to prison. However, when Enten did not 
comply, at the hearing the judge simply changed the terms of probation to two years of 
public service work. In a press interview given on that occasion, he was quoted as saying: "I 
wasn't going to give him a prison sentence. He's just different. He's a very special person." 

Now Enten's attorneys had expressed their opinion that the judge really thought Enten 
would break down and register. However, the Shadow says flatly that the judge was certain 
Enten would not. And the Shadow knows. I'm sure of one thing: that particular judge would 
have a hard time living with himself if he knew he was responsible for powering Enten into 
acting contrary to what he felt was the direct leading of God. That judge would have leaked 
his threat only in the confidence it would not be heeded. What was going on throughout 
was "Christian graciousness." 

Then, just as Enten was getting well started on his work project in Virginia, his sister was to 
be married in California and wanted him as a member of the wedding. He arranged with his 
employer for an absolute minimum of leave, missing only a Thursday and Friday at work. 
When, then, Enten applied to his probation officer for legal permission to make the trip, 



Mike said, "Well, if you're going so far, why don't you stay longer?" You can be sure Enten 
took him up on his graciousness; he was home for a full week. 

At one point in the trial, from the stand the defendant thanked the judge for the "ease" he 
had felt in the courtroom. Rather than "ease," he could well have said "freedom." Ell ul 
started us out in this book by suggesting that Christian Anarchy is dedicated to our finding 
"freedom by wresting it from the powers, "shaking an edifice, producing a fissure, a gap in 
the structure." I have no quarrel with that; in most of our exercise of anarchy the story will 
probably end there. However, when, into that fissure, that gap, there comes the grace of 
God-when divine grace spins off into human graciousness-there is no telling how far the 
freeing-up can go. 

Enten found freedom in the very process of being convicted-praise the Lord! But wonder of 
wonders, if that damnable old arky of the U.S. Government (which, always remember, 
likewise consists of human individuals, just as much as Enten does) didn't experience some 
rather impressive freeing-up of its own-praise the Lord! 

There was found the freedom for every person in that courtroom to be treated with the 
dignity and respect (and, yes, even love) due human individuals. There was found freedom 
from the necessity of conducting the trial as the arky contest: The United States of America 
versus Enten Vernard Eller. (As Enten told the press, the question as to who had won didn't 
make sense, because there hadn't been a fight.) There was found the freedom of the 
government to drop all the niceties of legal protocol ("the strangest trial I've ever seen") and 
play it simply as a group of concerned individuals addressing a common problem. There was 
found the freedom for the prosecution once to try its hand at producing evidence for the 
defense. There was found the freedom for the court to arrive at a conviction without 
creating wrath anywhere. 

There was found grace. There was found freedom. And there was found justice-justice of a 
quality that the defendant could say to the judge: "I want to assure you that I would not 
condemn you if you were to convict me.... That is a choice that you have to make; and I 
admit that I am comfortable with you making it, because of what I have heard of you. And it 
is said that you are a just man. So I rest secure that, whether I am convicted or acquitted, 
you believe that justice has been served. And I'm comfortable with that." 

All this, bear in mind, took its start from an anarchical action of refusing to obey the Big 
Arky's law. Nothing was found here that represents a legitimizing of the state, a recognizing 
of holy obligation toward it, any suggestion that it is above criticism. As I said, I even took 
the occasion to publish an article-done, I hope, in the rational persuasions of speaking the 
truth in love-which was my witness and protest against the evils and injustices of the draft 
registration law. 

So, finding grace, freedom, and justice here manifest within the arky workings of the U.S. 
Government does in no way indicate that it is, in fact, a holy arky elect of God. Yet neither is 
there any counter-indication, that it is a demonic arky elect of Satan. No, all the indications 
are that it is simply a human arky-sometimes good, sometimes bad, and most times in- 
between (even as you and l-and probably in about the same proportions). Yet, even as in us 



God can sometimes find a fissure through which to introduce a bit of grace that frees us to 
be gracious (and even loving) toward that arky-so can he sometimes find a fissure through 
which to make it gracious in response. 

Granted, Enten's U.S. Government trial and Isaiah's Judge Jehovah trial are not at all the 
same thing-yet they aren't totally dissimilar, either. My explanation of the similarity is not 
that the U.S. Government is like God, but that, ultimately, it was the same Judge conducting 
both trials-praise the Lord! 

It is, of course, the presence in the trial of "human graciousness" that we have been arguing- 
-and not necessarily that of the divine grace of God himself. Yet, at the same time, I 
certainly don't want to be guilty of denying that latter possibility. My reluctance is explained 
by the leeriness I feel around those who are so quick and self-confident in identifying what 
are manifestations of God's grace and what not; we humans are no more infallible in that 
regard than in any other. Yet in the trial, it must be said, God's grace was given every 
opportunity. Enten and company had a prayer meeting on the steps of the Federal Building 
before going in. When we got in, word came from the judge that he would be a little late. 
Enten's attorney (who well knows the judge) said, "He's probably in prayer with his pastor." 
That judge, it turns out, is basically a Sunday-school teacher for whom Sunday Classroom or 
Weekday Courtroom are all the same-he runs both the same way. In fact, I have reason to 
believe that considerable silent praying went on right in the courtroom itself (that's not 
unconstitutional, is it?). Granted, in Enten's trial we didn't do too good a job at maintaining 
our vaunted "separation of church and state"-but the point is that, although "human 
graciousness" is no proof, it can be a direct product of "God's grace." 

Well then, we have portrayed justice, freedom, and grace as fruits of Christian Anarchy. 
Recently, two events coincided in time to impress me with the arky-faith equivalents. The 
first was the Republican Convention with its disgusting rush of conservative, evangelical 
Christians to ordain the Reagan Administration as holy government in holy tandem with 
holy church. Yet that is sheerly the zealotism of foot-kissing, collaborationist legitimizing, 
with nothing of truly Christian justice, freedom, or grace to be found in it or expected from 
it. For sure, the U.S. Government isn't that good-or the church, either, if it comes to that. 

About the same time, there appeared an issue of Sojourners, a magazine of radical 
discipleship, with this headline on the cover, in large, colored, block lettering: 

RONALD REAGAN IS LYING ABOUT NICARAGUA. 

IF THE U.S. INVADES NICARAGUA, 

thousands of U.S. citizens 

are promising massive public resistance. 

If that is discipleship, it is the following of a Lord different from the one I ever heard speak; 
it represents a type of offense-causing entirely different from his. This is sheerly the turned- 
up volume of zealotism and revolutionist class warfare with nothing of truly Christian 
justice, freedom, and grace about it or to be expected from it. For sure, the U.S. 



Government isn't that bad, either-so bad that it now becomes "speaking the truth in love" 
to accuse and damn it for sins not yet committed. 

It's enough to make one grateful to be a Christian anarchist, free to give God what belongs 
to God rather than having to choose between the holy-arky alternatives.